World handball coming to Egypt
Egypt is seriously preparing to host the 27thIHF Men’s Handball World Championship, which will see the participation of the top and strongest teams in the world.
The 27th edition of the IHF Men’s World Championship, the first IHF World Championship to be played with 32 teams, will take place in Egypt from 13 to 31 January 2021 at four venues: the Cairo Stadium Indoor Hall, the New Administrative Capital Hall, the Sixth of October Hall, and The Borg El Arab Hall.
After months of anticipation, all participating teams at the IHF Men's Handball World Championship were introduced to their group opponents when the draw was held in Cairo on 5 September at the Giza Pyramids Plateau.
The Egypt 2021 Draw Ceremony was a star-studded event in front of the spectacular Giza Pyramids and Sphinx where guests were treated to a wide variety of entertainment along with the unveiling of the championship mascot, Horus.
The Draw Ceremony was attended by Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Moustafa Madbouly, Minister of Youth and Sports Dr. Ashraf Sobhy, and IHF President Dr. Hassan Moustafa, in addition to ministers and top officials of state as well as public figures, sports figures, and dignitaries.
IHF Commission of Organizing and Competition Chairperson Per Bertelsen and IHF Competitions Director Patric Strub conducted the draw assisted by senior Egyptian players Ali Zein, captain Ahmed El Ahmar, and Egypt’s 2019 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship winners, goalkeeper Abdel Rahman Homayed and Hassan Kaddah.
Egypt landed in Group G at the draw event of the 27th IHF Men's Handball World Championship. As hosts, Egypt had the right to choose which group they were drawn into, and they selected Group G with Sweden, Czech Republic, and a qualifier from the Americas.
Debutants Uruguay and Cape Verde found themselves in a tough group, Group A, with European sides Germany and Hungary, both of whom finished inside the top 10 at the 2020 Men’s EHF EURO.
Group B saw the very first team drawn in the evening, wild card side Poland who won bronze at the 2015 IHF Men’s World Championship, face Spain, who they beat in that match, alongside Tunisia and Brazil. Poland will co-host the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship with Sweden.
Just one European side is in Group C, continental silver medalists Croatia, where they will face 2020 Olympic Games hosts Japan, Angola, and Asian champions Qatar.
Another debutant, Democratic Republic of Congo, goes up against Bahrain, who recently announced the German Michael Roth as their new coach, along with current world champions Denmark and Argentina in Group D.
A rematch of the 2017 IHF Men’s World Championship final between France and Norway is guaranteed in Group E, with the two sides joined by Austria and a qualifier from the North America and the Caribbean Handball Confederation (NACHC).
Group F sees Morocco and Algeria meet again after the Algerians beat their North African rivals and neighbors at the 2020 CAHB Men’s African Championship in Tunisia in January. They are joined by European sides Portugal, who return to the World Championship for the first time since 2003, and 2008 Olympic Games bronze medalists Iceland.
The one nation who knows what it is like to win an IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt, Sweden who won in 1999, are in Group G, where the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship joint hosts will face 2021 hosts Egypt, along with the Czech Republic, who will be returning to the World Championship for the first time since 2005, and the South and Central America qualifier winner, set to be known in November.
The final group, Group H, features another wild card, Russia, go up against 2017 IHF Men’s World Championship bronze medalists Slovenia, Asian runners-up Republic of Korea, and 10th-place finisher at the EURO 2020 Belarus.
Days after the draw, the IHF released the match schedule of the 27th IHF Men's Handball World Championship Egypt 2021. The preliminary round matches will be held from 13 to 19 January, whereas the main draw and the president cup will be on 20 January and last until 25 January. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and final, are scheduled to start on 26 January.
The Cairo Stadium Hall will host groups D and G, while the Sixth of October Hall will receive groups A and E. Groups B and F are to play at the New Administrative Capital Hall, while Borg El Arab Hall will host groups C and H.
While the national team continue their training sessions building up for the tournament, the organizers too have been working vigorously on the clock to meet all deadlines in order to be ready to host the event before the launch of the event. It is true there is still much to do, but the Egyptian government, led by Dr. Moustafa Madbouly, has been on call 24/7 to guarantee the remaining works are completed in time.
For the Egyptian political leadership, the 27thMen’s Handball World Championship is a top priority. Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has been deeply involved in the preparation process of the 27th IHF Men's Handball World Championship since Egypt was awarded the honor to host the event for the second time in its history.
As the Championship draws closer, President Al-Sisi has met with Minister of Youth and Sports Dr. Ashraf Sobhy and Major General Mohamed Amin, the president's financial advisor, to get a sense of how far the organizing committee has gone with the works and the latest progress of the preparation.
According to the official presidential spokesperson, the meeting tackled all issues related to Egypt's final preparations to host the Men's Handball World Championship.
The Egyptian president has given immediate instructions to provide all facilities required for delivering an astounding and successful event that marks the first world-class major sports festival to be held on Egyptian soil since the outbreak of the coronavirus with spectator attendance.
The official spokesperson explained that the minister of youth and sports had demonstrated the different aspects of the ongoing preparations set by the Supreme Organizing Committee of the World Championship including upgrading and refurbishing the efficiency of the sports infrastructure that will host the championship.
He also pointed out the fact that Egypt 2021 will host 32 participating teams for the first time in the history of the championship, where 108 matches are scheduled to be played in four different venues in three Egyptian cities, in addition to the 10 halls dedicated for the teams' training. The official spokesperson added that a total of 1,100 volunteers will be selected to assist the organizers and participants during the tournament. The selected volunteers will attend an intensive course where they will be trained on how to deal with the teams' delegations. They will also receive a training on first-aid in case of any emergency situations in order to contribute to creating a spectacular event.
Sobhy confirmed that the head of state, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, is very interested in this event and is genuinely following up on all details regarding the current progress of the final preparations. The minister added that President Al-Sisi has given instructions about facilitating any obstacles to ensure no delay and smooth working conditions for the success of the event.
After assisting in the draw procedures, goalkeeper Abdel Rahman Homayed, gold medalist at the 2019 World Youth Championship, said, “Choosing to play with Sweden in the group is good thinking as we believe we have been on the same level in the past years and sometimes we have the advantage.”
“Being named as the best goalkeeper at the 2019 World Youth Championship is just a step towards what I dream of and is not the end of my ambitions,” he continued.
Teammate Hassan Kaddah added, “I wish to see a full house at the World Championship. We are counting on the spectators’ support as we are used to. It will have a positive impact on the team.”
"Despite winning the World Youth title, playing the Men's Championship for the first time and at home is a totally different story,” Kaddah added.
Sweden's head coach Glenn Solberg believes that playing Egypt in Egypt makes the hosts a really tough opponent.
“At the same time, it gives us extra motivation as they have chosen to play against us. It depends on how the situation with the spectators will be, but to play in front of a sold out arena in Cairo would be a great experience,” Solberg told the Egypt 2021 official website.
Sweden was drawn in Group G with hosts Egypt, the Czech Republic, and a team from South America, yet to be decided.
“The Czech Republic had a great EHF EURO in 2018 where they finished sixth, and they have some exciting players,” he added.
“Overall, I think there are two or three really good teams in each group, even in ours. We still don't know which will be the fourth team in the group, but we should be the better team there,” the Swedish coach concluded.
The Swedes have claimed the title four times, including the 1999 edition which was held in Egypt.
Sweden's team captain, Jim Gottfridsson, agrees with his coach that playing in Egypt would be a remarkable experience.
“I love playing championships, and I really hope I can represent Sweden in Egypt. To play against them at their home soil would be a great experience, and I think the first place in the group will be a fight between the two of us. However, we have great respect for the Czech Republic as well,” he said.
After the Czech Republic was drawn in the same group with hosts Egypt in the 27th Men's Handball World Championship, coach Jan Filip revealed that he expects a tough mission in the tournament in January with two big names like Egypt and Sweden.
“To face the championship's host is always attractive as our game will witness a huge number of spectators, but it will be an important game,” Filip was quoted as saying on the Czech Handball Federation's official website following the draw.
“Sweden is a strong team as we failed to beat them in Qatar 2015. but the coming meeting will be different,” the Czech Republic tactician added.
“I think we will play our games at Cairo International Stadium Hall after Egypt chose to be in our group, and the fans who will attend the games will be Egyptians, so the game is expected to be tough,” he continued.
“In the middle of January, everything will be different if the tournament is held as scheduled. I am sure that the organizers will do their best to make the tournament safe (medically),” Jan Filip concluded.
On the other hand, based on the recommendation of the IHF COVID-19 Medical Task Force, the IHF Council has decided to increase the number of players allowed per team at the upcoming event.
For Egypt 2021, each team will be allowed 20 players instead of 18 on the definitive list, with the standard 16 still on the match report.
The measure is designed to provide teams a wider pool of players and to have more alternate players in case of any health issue that might occur. Additionally, the provision aims to avoid player injuries resulting from the reduced amount of training and matches due to the pandemic.
The decision was made by the IHF Council in a meeting on 18 September and applies only for the 27th IHF Men’s World Championship. The costs for the four additional players per team are to be covered by the IHF.
The IHF Council also previously modified the regulation regarding the maximum number of replacements for each team competing at an IHF World Championship from three to five. This is to ensure no team is forced to make unsafe decisions and that players can be more easily replaced.
The IHF COVID-19 Medical Task Force was formed in July 2020, with a special view towards management of the Egypt 2021 World Championship and the Olympic Games, including the handball qualification events also scheduled to take place next year.