Al-Ahram Weekly Online   26 February - 3 March 2004
Issue No. 679
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Pick and choose

Egypt got to select the group it wanted to play in the African Nations Handball Cup. As Inas Mazhar reports, the choice was obvious

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Egypt's Medhat Beltagui announcing Egypt top of group B
photo: Mohamed Abdou

Twenty teams -- 12 men and eight women -- will be competing in the two-week African Nations Handball Cup which will take place in Cairo from 6 to 19 April. The draw was conducted by both the president of the African Handball Federation (AHF), Yapo Christophe of the Ivory Coast, and Egyptian Medhat El- Beltagui, AHF board member.

The men were divided into three groups of four teams each. Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt, the top three countries in the African Nations Cup in Morocco in 2002, were placed at the head of each group.

Egypt, being the host city, had the right to select the group it judged the easiest. After consultations among its staff, Egypt chose to play in Group B which includes Morocco, the Congo and Congo DR. Only Morocco has the ability to pose problems to the Pharaohs.

Group A includes Algeria, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and Kenya while Group C comprises Tunisia, Angola, Senegal and Libya.

The 16th edition of the championship is based on two rounds. The teams will play a round robin in the first round from which two teams will qualify to the second round. Then the teams will play another round robin format from which four teams will reach the semi-finals. The winners will play for the cup and the losers will meet for the third place play-off spot.

The tournament also doubles as a qualifier to the World Handball Championship in Tunisia in 2005. Initially, the top three countries would have been chosen to represent the continent. But since hosts Tunisia are Africans and are the organisers, they automatically booked a seat in the world event. Thus, four teams will be selected to represent Africa.

Egypt's women will participate after a long absence. The eight teams were divided into two groups of four teams each. Group A includes Angola, Cameroon, Congo DR and Egypt while Group B comprises the Ivory Coast, Tunisia, the Congo and Tanzania. The top three teams will qualify for the world championship in 2005 in Russia.

"I'm glad to attend the draw," International Handball Federation (IHF) President Hassan Mustafa said. "Since I took over the post, I've been keen to attend all world and continental championships for both men and women. I'm also keen to attend the draw ceremonies for all championships to show organisers that we trust their capabilities." Mustafa, who is also the president of the Egyptian Handball Federation (EHF), added that his main concern was to promote the game and help develop handball worldwide.

The last time Egypt hosted the African Cup was in 1991 on the occasion of the inauguration of the Cairo Stadium indoors complex at Nasr City. In front of more than 20,000 supporters, Egypt beat Algeria to claim the title, just 10 days before the 1991 All-Africa Games in Cairo when the national team added the handball gold medal as well.

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