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Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Handball at its grandest

 Egypt will be hosting the world’s biggest event in handball for the first time,

Abeer Anwar , Tuesday 23 Jun 2020
Egypt’s team
Egypt’s team upon winning the 2019 World Handball Championshlp
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Several meetings have been held between International Handball Federation (IHF) President Hassan Mustafa and Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhi to put the final touches to the 2021 Men’s Handball World Cup.

The championship will be held in Egypt from 14 to 31 January next year with the participation of a record 32 teams.

This will be Egypt’s first time to stage the tournament after it was enlarged.

Mustafa and Sobhi had visited the new indoor halls at Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Alexandria which is newly constructed for hosting the event. The venue is constructed on 52,500 square metres and includes an indoor hall, a gym, changing rooms, a media centre and a conference room. It can take up to 5,000 fans. Almost 85 per cent of construction has finished, paving the way for its soft opening soon.

“We are exerting our utmost effort to be ready for such an international event that we are looking forward to hosting after years of absence and we should use such events to send a message to the whole world about the capabilities of the Egyptian government to host such big events,” Sobhi said.

“Construction plans for a number of indoor halls at the new Administrative Capital, and in the 6th of October are going well in addition to renovation taking place at the Cairo Indoor Halls in Cairo Stadium,” Sobhi added.

“I am really honoured to be Egyptian and to see such construction that will make the championship a real success and will add more to Egypt’s precious achievements in hosting a number of events including the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations,” Mustafa said. “It is a very important event for Egypt as it is the first World Cup to take place in the country. We hosted this in 1999 but we had fewer teams, only 24, so this one will be the first with 32 teams and this is the real challenge but I am sure that the Egyptians are up to it.”

Sobhi held a number of meetings with ministers and ministries involved in the organisation of the championship set for January 2021 to ensure that everything is going well.

“The participation of 32 teams instead of 24 for the first time in the 2021 World Handball World Cup is a clear challenge that obliges all of us to work at full strength in order to make the tournament a success,” Sobhi told reporters.

Egyptian state institutions are joining forces to provide the facilities required for the championship, including infrastructural, technical, logistical and administrative support, and cadres experienced in organising sports tournaments to coordinate the event, he said.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Egyptian Handball Federation are following up on preparations for the tournaments in accordance with international standards, Sobhi pointed out.

Egypt won the bid to host the championship in November 2015 after a fierce battle with Hungary.

Mustafa said he believed Egypt was capable of hosting the World Cup despite the current circumstances, which would include the coronavirus. “I want to thank the Egyptian government for all its efforts to prepare for the 2021 Handball World Cup despite the current difficult circumstances.”

The championship will be the 27th event hosted by the International Handball Federation and the second to be held in Egypt. Egypt last staged the international competition in 1999.

This will be the second IHF World Championship hosted by Egypt after it staged the 16th edition of the championship in 1999 which Sweden won.

Egypt finished sixth when it hosted the tournament in 1999. Two years later the Pharaohs enjoyed their biggest achievement in the competition’s history when they finished fourth in France.

At the same time, in recognition of the important role he has played in the Egyptian Olympic movement, in addition to his continuous support of the sports movement for years, Mustafa was recently awarded a lifetime honourary presidency of the Egyptian Olympic Committee (EOC).

“We really honour and appreciate Mustafa’s many decades of commitment and contribution to sport and the Olympic Movement in Egypt and abroad,” EOC President Hisham Hattab wrote to the International Olympic Committee.

Mustafa, who was elected IHF president in 2000, was also president of the Mediterranean Handball Confederation from 1999 to 2003, first vice-president of the Arab Handball Federation from 1992 to 2000 and Association of Summer Olympic International Federations council member (2005 to 2014) and vice president (2014 to 2015).

Mustafa played for the Egyptian club Ahly for 11 years and the national team for 10. After finishing his playing career, he worked for 10 years as a coach for Ahly and Egypt, as well as refereeing at both national and international levels.
He was president of the Egyptian Handball Federation from 1984 to 1992 and 1996 to 2008 and was a member and then secretary general of the Egyptian Olympic Committee from 1985 to 2000.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Handball Federation has announced the cancellation of the current national league tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic. It did not announce a winner.

The new league tournament will start mid-August after 11 clubs refused to continue with the current season.

Four clubs had agreed to resume the season.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 25 June, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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