An Egyptian powerhouse, Ahly’s handball team, took the 44th Men’s African Club Championship following a tough 10-day competition held in Brazzaville, Congo, that was packed with superb playing and which concluded on 7 October. Ahly sealed the title for the sixth time after defeating DR Congo’s Jeunesse Sportive de Kinshasa (JSK).
Nine teams were divided into two groups, one of five teams and the other one of four, played in a round-robin format, with four teams from each group progressing to the quarter-finals.
In the group phase, Ahly had no rivals, strolling around to the quarter-finals as they secured a 33-18 win over Cameroon’s FAP, a 37-24 win over Congo’s BMC and a 42-30 win over JSK.
Eight teams progressed to the quarter-finals where Ahly scored a comfortable 35-18 win over Fondation Andre Nziko Yaounde from Cameroon, while two other matches, JSK’s 35-33 win over Benin’s Adjidja and FAP’s 23-22 win over Congo’s Petro Sport were on a knife’s edge.
In the semi-finals, Ahly also clinched a 37-27 win over BMC.
There were no surprises in the final when Ahly, who will represent Africa at the 2023 Men’s Super Globe, took a 16-11 lead against JSK, then dominated in the second half, securing a 37-23 win.
This sixth Ahly title ranks third in the hall of fame behind record holders Zamalek, also of Egypt, who won 12 titles, and Mouloudia Alger of Algeria who have 11 crowns.
This was also Ahly’s first title in the competition since 2017. The title also returns to Egypt for the first time since 2019 when Zamalek SC had previously sealed it. Zamalek failed to make it to the starting gate this year.
Ahly President Mahmoud Al-Khatib, congratulated the team on their achievement. “You have always been up to the challenge and winning all your matches in Africa is an unprecedented achievement that writes a new chapter in the history of handball in Ahly.”
Ahly defender Ibrahim Al-Masri added, “It was not an easy journey but we as a team had promised each other to exert our utmost effort to win the title that had been absent from the Red Castle for six years. We are very enthusiastic about the title and the victory and are sure that we are moving on the right path. Hope we will be able to win the Super Globe title as well to ensure our African supremacy.”
On to more successes, Egypt’s volleyball team booked a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games due to their advanced position in the world ranking.
The Pharaohs lost 3-2 to Finland in the qualifiers early. Nonetheless, they remained optimistic about reaching the tournament’s finals, relying on their world ranking qualification.
Egypt are placed 18th in the world ranking, putting them above Tunisia who lost 3-0 to Turkey in the qualifiers.
The top two teams from each group in the qualifiers are directly awarded spots in Paris, with the five highest-ranked eligible teams joining them through the world ranking qualification.
The volleyball tournament at the Olympics is scheduled to run from 27 July to 11 August, featuring the participation of 24 teams.
Last month, Egypt captured the African Nations Championship for the first time since 2015 with a 3-1 win over Algeria in the final held in Cairo.
Six men’s national teams – Belgium, Egypt, Mexico, Tunisia, Ukraine and Qatar – are among the 24 teams competing in the ongoing International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers being played in Brazil, China and Japan.
Fresh from winning the African Championship, Egypt went down 3-0 to VNL silver medalists and NORCECA champions USA in their Pool B opening match on Saturday. However, coach Flavio Gulinelli’s team bounced back on Sunday to stun the hosts, VNL bronze medalists and Asian champions Japan 3-2 (14-25, 10-25, 25-23, 25-23, 15-13) in their second match.
Egypt also pulled off a thrilling victory over Tunisia, turning what appeared to be an imminent defeat into a much-needed win.
In this closely contested match, Egypt triumphed over Tunisia 3-2, earning them four points, while Tunisia secured their first point. As per competition rules, the winning team in a 3-2 match receives two points while the losing team gets one.
Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhi congratulated the national volleyball team despite its loss to Finland but officially qualifying for the Paris Olympics after beating Tunisia in the continental classification.
Sobhi praised the performance of the national team players, noting that the “great and unlimited support provided by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for the sports champions and all clubs and national teams, oversaw the achievements witnessed by the sports system during the current period at the Arab, continental, regional and international levels”.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 12 October, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly