Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1269, (5 - 11 November 2015)
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1269, (5 - 11 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

When you least expect it

Though a wild card, Zamalek won the African Handball Clubs Championship, reports Abeer Anwar

Al-Ahram Weekly

Zamalek won their ninth African continental title after thrashing Tunisia’s Africain 35-22 in the final of the African Handball Clubs Championship in Morocco on Friday.

Zamalek had the upper hand throughout most parts of the game although Africain were the same team that Zamalek lost to in their group’s preliminary round. Zamalek led 17-14 at halftime on Friday and widened the gap late in the second half to 13 goals.

“It is a tremendous victory as it never happened that a team losses in a final match with such a big goal difference,” Ayman Salah, Zamalek’s head coach and former Zamalek and national team star, said in an exclusive interview with Al-Ahram Weekly. “But when the gap started to widen the stars of Africain started to leave the court because they knew it will end up in our favour.”

Salah added that because he has experience in training North African teams he knew that the key to winning the final was to attack from the first minute and press the opposition by playing with a quick tempo.

Salah attributed the victory to Mortada Mansour, Zamalek’s president who was eager to revive the handball team at the club after many of its stars left to play in other clubs and abroad.

“In 2012 we all left and I went to train Tunisia’s Africain. It was very difficult to collect all the team’s veterans once more but I received the green light from Mansour to get all the players back to regain the power of the White Knights.”

Salah revealed that Zamalek was invited to attend the championship and that the team paid more than any other participant following a late participation fine. “We participated through a wild card but the Egyptian representatives were Ahly and Sporting. We beat (local team rival) Ahly in the quarter-finals 28-26. In the semi-finals we had a very tough match against Tunisia’s Sfaxien but won after two extra times 34-33.”

Salah said the team started preparing for the event three months ago but had “no chance” to train in international camps or play friendlies. He added that this was a milestone victory. “They were determined to win and do their best to take the title.”

Zamalek are currently playing in the Egyptian league tournament. They have the IHF Super Globe championship in April next year when champion clubs from continental confederations compete. The event also allows teams to qualify for the Clubs World Cup in 2016 to take place in Qatar.

Zamalek’s last African Champions League triumph was in 2011 when they defeated Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel in the final in Nigeria’s Kaduna. The previous two finals were also Egyptian-Tunisian duels, with Ahly losing both to Esperance and Club Africain in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The White Knights are two titles back of record winners GS Petroliers of Algeria, who won the trophy 11 times.

In other handball news, Zamalek player Mohamed ‘Risha’ Abdel-Salam has been suspended by the Egyptian Handball Association (EHA) for wearing a T-shirt with the American flag during celebrations marking the winning of the African Club Championship.

“The Zamalek player was suspended and referred to an investigation after wearing an American flag T-shirt,” a statement on the EHA official website said.”We took this disciplinary decision to be a deterrent to other players on international duty,” the statement added.

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