Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
17 - 23 June 1999
Issue No. 434
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page
The Champions

BOYS WITH THEIR TOYS: Swedish team members weigh up the relative merits of the two trophies --Ęthe Dreamland Cup and the IHF World Cup -- which they carried off thanks to a single victory over Russia in the finals of the 16th World Men's Handball Championships Tuesday in Cairo(photo: Khaled El-Fiqi)

The Vikings' revenge

By Inas Mazhar

Two weeks ago, President Hosni Mubarak surprised the nation by attending the opening of the World Handball Championship, where he listened to Hisham Abbas sing, watched the Cairo Opera Ballet dance, and saw Egypt's national team defeat Brazil. On Tuesday evening, he surprised us all once again by insisting on attending the finals, even though Egypt had already been eliminated. The president was accompanied by a number of top state officials, and together they enjoyed a powerful match between the two best teams in the world.

This is the second time in a row that Russia has met Sweden in the World Championship finals. In Japan in 1997, it was the Russians who carried off the title. But this year the Swedes, three-times world champions themselves, were determined to avenge their defeat. Whoever you were rooting for, you had to agree -- this was the best handball that was played during the whole of the fifteen-day event.

And avenge their defeat they did! A nail-biting 25-24 victory gave the Swedes the Cup. Following the match, the Swedish team toured the stadium to thank the 25,000-plus fans present, who had so warmly supported them. Sweden is the only nation to have participated in every World Championship since the competition was founded in 1938, winning the cup in 1954, 1958 and 1990.

If Sweden took the first prize, it was Egypt that won the competitors' hearts. Over the past two weeks, this has truly been the land where "hearts meet and hands compete". Twenty four nations from five continents entered the preliminary round that was divided between three different cities. Two groups played in Cairo, one in Ismailia and another in Port Said.

But it wasn't all hard work: "We had time to compete and have fun as well," said Per-Olof Soderblom, president of the Swedish Handball Federation. Sweden played the preliminary round in Port Said. "We enjoyed the sun, the Mediterranean sea, and the Suez Canal. We used to take walks by the sea in the evening to relax after the matches. The people of that city are very friendly," Soderblom confided to reporters, adding that the whole team wished to thank the Egyptian fans for supporting them in the final match against Russia. "We are glad that we won the Cup here in Egypt," he concluded.

According to Hassan Mustafa, president of the Egyptian Handball Federation (EHF), Egypt has much to be proud of, even though we only took seventh place. "First, we qualified for the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000," explained Mustafa. "Second, we qualified for the World Cup in Sweden next year, which is for the top eight teams in the world. And third, Africa can now get two teams into the Olympics, as the winner of the upcoming African Nations Cup will also qualify. Thus we spared ourselves a series of tough matches with the North African teams, and have also given one of them a chance to go forward to the Olympics."

Sweden and Russia were joined on the podium for the award of medals by third-place Yugoslavia, who had defeated Spain 27-24. Swedish team captain Steffan Lovgren was presented with the Dreamland Cup, in the form of the competition's ibis mascot, by businessman Ahmed Bahgat, the championship's lead sponsor.

In his role as president of the Coaches and Methods Committee of the International Handball Federation (IHF), Hassan Mustafa handed out the individual trophies for the seven best players. They were awarded to Andrei Lavrov (Russia, best goalkeeper), Vassili Koudinov (Russia, best left back), Pierre Thorsston (Sweden, best right wing), Steffan Olsson (Sweden, best right back), Rafael Castillo (Spain, best left wing), Jovanovic Nedeljko (Yugoslavia, best centre half) and Rolando (Cuba, best pivot).

IHF President Erwin Lanc and EHF President Hassan Mustafa then formally handed the IHF flag on to the president of the French Handball Federation, whose country will host the 17th World Championship scheduled for the year 2001.

The Swedish team were then greeted by President Mubarak who presented them with the World Championship trophy and offered them his hearty congratulations.

The evening was then rounded off with a simple closing ceremony, featuring the ever-popular singers Anoushka and Hisham Abbas.

The final standings of the 24 teams were as follows: Sweden, Russia, Yugoslavia, Spain, Germany, France, Egypt, Cuba, Denmark, Croatia, Hungary, Tunisia, Norway, Korea, Algeria, Brazil, Morocco, Macedonia, Kuwait, China, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Australia.

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