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Aiming for a way back
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 20 - 01 - 2005

Egypt is determined to recapture its golden handball era. From Tunisia, Inas Mazhar reports on the chances
The Egyptian handball team flies to Tunisia today for the world men's handball championship hoping to regain some lost glory.
For the past decade, the country had been among the top 10 teams in the handball world but has slowly and steadily declined.
In 1995 in Iceland, Egypt came in sixth for its best showing in the history of its handball. In 1996, Egypt repeated the same position at the Atlanta Olympic Games, an unprecedented achievement for any of its team sports at an Olympics. In 1997, at the world championship in Japan, Egypt again claimed the same position.
But in the 1999 world championship, Egypt dropped to seventh.
The pharaohs were at their apex at the 2001 world championships in 2001 in France, finishing in fourth. But the team dropped perilously, to 15th, in the 2003 championships in Portugal. At the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000, Egypt was also overwhelmed, placing seventh.
"There were some reasons for that," said Hassan Mustafa, president of both the Egyptian and international handball federations. "The IHF had adopted a new playing format to make the game more exciting and attractive. But the system proved to be problematic especially for Egypt."
Mustafa added that the IHF had amended the playing system for the sake of all teams and in order to ensure fair play.
The Egyptians have been training under the watchful eye of German coach Lomeil who led the team to the African championship title in 2004 and to the Olympic Games in Athens -- even though their showing in Athens was greatly under-par. The country played two friendly tournaments in Kuwait in December and in Spain earlier this month.
The 19th championship will be held from 23 January to 6 February. Tunisia, The sunny North African country, is welcoming the 24 teams, spectators, media personnel, referees and technicians.
Tunisia as the host country and Croatia as the title holder automatically qualified for the 15-day event.
For only the second time, an African country will host the championship, Egypt being the first in 1999.
The draw was conducted under the supervision of Peter Mèhlematter, president of the IHF commission of organising and competition, in Tunisia on 31 July last year.
Group A in Rades, 10 kilometres from Tunis, will host Denmark, France, Tunisia, Greece, Angola and Canada. Games will be played at the new 7 November sports centre with a 12,000-seat capacity
Group B, which comprises Slovenia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Kuwait, Iceland and Algeria, will compete in El- Menzah sports centre with a 4,500--spectator capacity.
Group C in Sfax, Tunisia's second biggest city, 270km southeast of Tunis, with a 3,500-seat stadium, includes defending champions Croatia, Sweden, Spain, Argentina, Japan, Australia.
Group D clashes will take place in Sousse, the third biggest city, 142km southeast of Tunis, at the 3,500 seat Olympic sports hall, comprises Germany, Serbia, Norway, Egypt, Brazil and Qatar.
The venues are Rades , El-Menzah, Sfax, Sousse and Nabeul.
Taking into account the results from the world championship in Portugal, the European Handball Federation was allocated nine "performance places". The teams which earned their tickets to Tunisia were Germany, Slovenia and Denmark, the top three teams in the 2004 European Championship, and Russia, France, Sweden, Serbia and Montenegro, Norway and Spain, by way of a two-leg play- off.
The rest qualified through "compulsory places" allocated to continents as follows: three each for Africa, Asia, Europe, Pan-America and one for Oceania.
Europe was granted its own three compulsory places: the Czech Republic, Greece and Iceland.
Egypt, Angola, Algeria entered after the African championship in Cairo in April. Kuwait, Japan, Qatar will represent Asia according to the results of the Asian championship held in February 2004 in Qatar.
Australia won the qualifications for Oceania in Sydney in June while Argentina, Brazil and Canada were the top three teams respectively in the Pan-American championship held in Santiago, Chile in July 2004.


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