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Three in one
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 02 - 02 - 2016

Egypt was crowned winner of the 22nd handball edition of the Africa Cup of Nations which concluded on Saturday at Cairo International Stadium. The home team deservingly beat Tunisia 21-19 in a thrilling encounter which was attended by more than 30,000 spectators led by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and Youth and Sports Minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz. The Pharaohs have now won the title for a sixth time.
It was a triple victory for the Egyptians — the 2016 Africa Cup of Nations, qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and going to the World Championships in France in 2017.
“The dream is finally achieved, the title and the two qualifications. We really deserved it. We are the happiest people today,” head coach Marawan Ragab told Al-Ahram Weekly while celebrating with the team. “We have regained our position and have become the leaders of the continent again after an eight-year absence. Now, as we return to the Olympic Games, our ambition is to regain our position there as well,” Ragab added. Egypt's highest ranking in handball was a sixth place finish in the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.
Abdel-Aziz announced that each player would receive LE20,000 in prize money from the ministry for the African title and qualifying for the Olympics and the World Championships.
President of the Egyptian Handball Federation Khaled Hammouda said that the federation's members had lived up to their promise when they were elected four years ago. “We pledged to revive Egyptian handball after its deterioration in the past several years and here we are,” Hammouda told the Weekly. “Our focus now will be the Olympic Games. We will train and prepare in the next six months which means we will need to work very hard.”
Goalkeeping coach Hamada Al-Naqeeb was optimistic about the Olympics. “Our goal now is to improve our ranking at the Olympic Games from 10th in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This is our new ambition,” Al-Naqeeb said.
Egypt also had three of its players on the all-star dream team:
Best goalkeeper Maged Hamza (Tunisia), best back left Ichandou Ismail (Angola), best wing left Hossam Khedr (Egypt), best pivot Mohamed Mamdouh Hashem (Egypt), best playmaker Said Sobhi (Tunisia), best right wing Saker Radwan (Tunisia) and best back right Ahmed Al-Ahmar (Egypt). Al-Ahmar was also named player of the tournament.
Tunisia, the runner up, could only qualify for the World Championships. However, the second-ranked team in the African championship has another chance to make it to the Olympics in another qualifying tournament which will take place from 4 to 7 April. The tournament will include three other teams, two from Europe – Poland and Macedonia — and Chile from South America.
Angola was the third team to qualify to the World Championships scheduled to take place in France next year. It will be Angola's second appearance at the championship. The Angolans confirmed their steady progress, coming up speedily and becoming a real threat to the North Africans. Angola outclassed Algeria 24-19 in a game that saw the Angolans take the lead from the beginning while the seven-time title holders Algeria failed to catch up or take the lead any time during the match.
Placement matches for positions five to 12 saw Cameroon take fifth after beating Morocco 30-29 after the Cameroonians led the Atlas Lions by a goal almost throughout. The Moroccans ended in sixth and DR Congo claimed seventh place after it beat neighbours Congo 26-25. Congo placed eighth.
Libya was ninth after beating Nigeria 28-26 for its third victory in the tournament. Eleventh place went to Gabon which managed to win its only match in the tournament, outclassing Kenya 38-19. The Kenyans finished bottom of the standings.
Following the final match and the distribution of medals, handball fans enjoyed another fabulous evening, this time at the closing ceremony which was as spectacular as the opening. Mega star pop singer Mohamed Hamaki entertained the crowd with his top songs. The closing ceremony also saw Egypt handing the African Handball Confederation (CAHB) flag to Gabon, the host nation of the next edition.
Before the semi-finals, in an official meeting held on the sidelines of the tournament, the Confederation of African Handball named the two nations which will host the 23rd and 24th Africa Cup of Nations. Gabon will host the 2018 edition in January, while Congo will host the women's event of the same edition in December 2018. Tunisia was named as host nation of the men's 2020 edition, which will also be a qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.
The announcement was made by CAHB president Mansourou Aremou after a review of the files of the three nations. Inspection committees will be visiting them in future to check their readiness to host the ACN.
ACN officials who were invited by the Egyptian Handball Federation to an official gala on the Nile, selected the river as the venue for dinner because they said it reflected Egypt's ancient history and civilisation.
Hammouda honoured Aremou as well as the delegations which had high praise for Egyptian hospitality. Hammouda gave away mini-carpets with the Egypt 2016 mascot as a souvenir.

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