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A hand in China
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 24 - 01 - 2008

Egypt's handballers lifted the African cup for the fifth time and, as such, are going to Beijing. Nashwa Abdel-Tawab reports
We are in the African mood these days. While our footballers are hoping to defend their crown in Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations, the handball team has already hit pay dirt.
Last week the Egyptian national handball team snatched the 18th African Cup of Nations after beating Tunisia 27-25 in Luanda, Angola, in a spirited match marked by a balance of forces between the two contesting nations.
The Pharaohs won the championship for the fifth time in their history to come within two titles of equaling Tunisia's record. The title also gave Egypt automatic passage to the Beijing Olympics and the 2009 World Handball Championship in Croatia. Runners-up Tunisia and third-placed Algeria will enter a play-off for the same tournaments. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is to be held this August, the first time for China to host the world's biggest international sports event.
Tunisia had the upper hand early in the game and finished the first-half leading 16-12. Egypt rallied in the second half and managed to overturn the result thanks to heroic displays from keeper Hamada El-Naquib who saved his net from 12 certain goals.
Egypt's Croatian coach Irvan handled the game perfectly by timely substitutions.
Hassan Youssri overcame a knee injury to battle with his teammates Hussein Zaki, Mohamed Ibrahim, Mohamed Abdel-Salam and Belal Awaad.
Algeria came third after their 20-23 win against Angola. Algeria performed well against the land owners as coach Akab's boys erased a 45-29 humiliation against Tunisia in the semi-final.
The victory redeemed Egypt's loss in the 17th edition of the African Championship of Handball in Tunisia in 2006 when the hosts beat Egypt in the final 26-21.
In Angola, Egypt did not lose a game en route to the crown. It started with a 26-23 win in the opener against Algeria. The game saw Hussein El-Masri pass out after hitting his head on the floor. He regained consciousness after being treated by paramedics and was rushed to hospital. He was out for the rest of the tournament.
"They proved their mettle in such crucial times," said Hassan Mustafa, head of the Egyptian and international handball federations. "I'm really optimistic that this generation can help recapture our status among the greatest teams ever."
President Mubarak sent his congratulations and Hassan Saqr, head of the National Council for Sports, received the team after their win. Saqr said the players were able to overcome their first half deficit and achieve their aim in the second half.
The African crown adds to recent handball glory. Two months ago, Egypt won the 11th pan-Arab Games for the six successive time after beating Algeria 31-25. In December, Egypt's all-star team defeated Russia 34-33 in a friendly in Cairo. The game was part of the Egyptian Handball Federation's 50th anniversary celebrations. The Egyptian side managed to stay ahead of the former World Cup winners throughout the second half.
In the women's event, Angola confirmed its hegemony in the sport on the continent after beating Cote d'Ivoire 39-27 in the final. Angola led 18-13 at the half and secured its ninth ACN trophy after six consecutive wins. It was the only team unbeaten in the women's competition. It was the first time the Angolan national senior women's team wins an ACN trophy at home. Thus, Angolan women qualified for the 2008 Olympics as well.
The Angolan head of state, who watched the game from the stands, was awarded the merit medal by the African Handball Confederation for his contribution to the sport.


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