After winning the African Handball Super Cup, Egypt’s Zamalek will be Africa’s representative at the International Handball Federation (IHF) Super Globe to take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The championship will take place from 5-9 October.
Zamalek, representing the African continent for the second consecutive time and fifth overall, will meet Spain’s FC Barcelona in their first match at the Super Globe championship which comprises the winners of the Super Cups from Asia (Qatar’s Al-Duhail) and Denmark’s Aalborg Håndbold representing Europe, San Francisco Calheat as North America and the Caribbean representative, Oceania represented by Australia’s Sydney University, Brazil’s EC Pinheiros as South and Central America representative, and Germany’s SC Magdeburg as the wild card holder, in addition to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Wehda and Al-Nour as the host country. Zamalek were crowned as Africa’s representative after a last minute victory over local arch-rivals Ahly 28-27 in a breathtaking African Super Cup final.
The White Knights of Zamalek became African champions for the 12th time after defeating Alexandria Sporting Club 33-31 in the final in Cape Verde back in April.
Meanwhile, Tunisia’s Etoile won the African Cup Winners’ Cup after beating Ahly in the final 28-24. Etoile were, therefore, set to face Zamalek, which won the African Champions League in 2020, in the African Super Cup. However, Etoile withdrew, leaving the two Egyptian teams face to face in their hometown where they played the final at the newly constructed Hassan Mustafa Indoor Hall which was recently built when Egypt hosted the Handball World Championship.
The Red Devils of Ahly reached the Super Cup by being recently crowned champions of the 2021 African Cup Winners’ Cup in Morocco.
Zamalek played the game, which was scheduled to take place on 18 August but was postponed to 10 September, under new coach Olivier Roy, a former Barcelona assistant coach, who replaced Hussein Zaki last month. The competition was not held last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The club also regained the services of their international keeper Karim Hindawi who rejoined the White Knights from Macedonian side Eurofarm Pelister. They also signed international playmaker Seif Al-Deraa from Heliopolis and veteran right back Mohamed Bassyouni from Sporting Club.
The trio joined a group of stars that shone in the Tokyo Olympic Games when the Pharaohs clinched their historic fourth place finish with teammates Yehya Al-Deraa, Ahmed Al-Ahmar, Hassan Walid, Omar Al-Wakil and Wessam Nawar.
They are the winners of the two previous Super Cup editions, defeating Ahly on both occasions.
Ahly, on the other hand, depended on international keeper Mohamed Essam and Tunisia left back Oussam Jaziri. They also signed Qatari right back Angel Hernandez from Kuwaiti side Kuwait.
Ahly have won the African Super Cup just once, in 2017, when they defeated Zamalek 29-23 in Morocco.
The first half of Friday’s final was extremely close as both clubs were switching positions taking the lead, but Ahly came out on top by the end of the first 30 minutes 15-13.
The second half wasn’t entirely different as both teams continued fighting for the continental title.
With one minute left on the clock, and the result 27-27, Yehya Al-Deraa snatched the victory for Zamalek when he scored the most valuable goal in the game through a free throw.
After the win, Zamalek now have three African Handball Super Cup titles in a row and seven overall. The only team with more coronations are GS Pétroliers who have nine titles under their belt.
“I am very proud of my team and very satisfied with the strategy of the newly appointed coach,” Hussein Labib, head of the newly appointed committee in charge of Zamalek and a legendary handball star himself, said. “It was a tough match and points were going back and forth until our boys added a new title to their collection.”
“It is an honour to win such a big title at your first official match,” coach Roy said. “I think the team will be able to win more medals and titles in the Super Globe. We are meeting a strong contender, Barcelona, but we will give it our best to challenge and win.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly