Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1268, (29 October - 4 November 2015)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1268, (29 October - 4 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Choose your own group

Following a unique group selection format, Egypt will take on Algeria in the opener of the African Handball Cup of Nations to be held in Cairo in January

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The draw for the African Handball Cup of Nations was held in a spectacular event held at the historic Salaheddin Citadel in Cairo, reports Inas Mazhar.

The event was attended by top sports officials and dignitaries of state, including Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz, International Handball Federation President Hassan Mustafa, African Confederation President Mansour Arimou, National Olympic Committee Hisham Hatab and Egyptian Federation President Khaled Hammouda, as well as FIFA’s interim president Issa Hayatou, who joined the event with his executive committee member, Egypt’s Hani Abu Rida.

Twelve countries will take part in the 22nd edition of the Africa Cup, a qualifying tournament for two major events: the 2016 Summer Olympic Games of Rio de Janeiro and the 2017 World Handball Championships in France.

“We expect a tough competition in January among the top 12 countries in the continent as they battle it out for qualifying tickets. The champion will represent the continent in the Olympics, while the top three countries will take part in the World Championship,” Medhat Al-Beltagui, vice president of the African Handball Confederation, said.

The two-week tournament will feature two groups of six teams each. Tunisia and Algeria, the champion and runner up of the last tournament in Algeria in 2014, were placed on top of each group. The draw was then held for the five other placements. Third in the 2014 edition, Egypt ranked among the second classification category and so it was left until the end to decide which group it would join.

In a surprising selection format, Egypt was allowed to choose which group it wanted to play in. Egypt’s head coach Marawan Ragab was called to the stage to announce the group which Egypt would join. “We choose Group A,” Ragab announced.

The head coach, a former pivot player in the golden era of Egyptian handball,  told Al-Ahram Weekly that Group A was much easier than Group B. “We will avoid meeting Tunisia in the group stages and that would release the tension. Still, the opening match against Algeria is not easy. It is the toughest in the group stages for us. But, playing at home and in front of our fans, we think we can win this match. If we do, it will bring confidence to the team and the rest would hopefully go well.

“This tournament is very important. It will be a double victory. We will qualify for the Olympics and go to the World Championships. That’s why we’re training very hard for this event. We have the advantage of playing on home ground,” Ragab added.

Group A included Algeria, Egypt, Cameroun, Nigeria, Gabon and Morocco while Group B will feature Tunisia, Congo, Libya, DR Congo and Kenya.

The 22nd ACN edition will take place at Cairo Stadium’s indoor complex from 20 to 31 January. “This tournament will be Egypt’s message of peace to the world. We will show the world how Egypt is capable of holding major sports events. And we are proud to announce that the Ministry of Youth and Sports renovated the indoor sports complex main arena especially for this event. The 40,000-seat stadium will be a witness to Egypt’s greatness,” Abdel-Aziz said.

Tournament director Khaled Al-Awadi thanked the sports minister for his full support for the event. “Honestly, we have been working seriously for months now and the minister provided us with all the facilities we needed, and the budget as well, so that we carry out a successful event,” Al-Awadi, Egypt’s former goalkeeper, said.

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