Every two years, the world’s best Men’s Handball teams come together to dispute the title of world champion. This year, despite the spread of COVID-19 and concerns about the health and safety of athletes, officials, and all other stakeholders, the International Handball Federation (IHF) and host country Egypt decided to push through with the flagship event – the 27th IHF Men’s Handball World Championship.
The first and last time Egypt brought the event to their land was well before the turn of the century in 1999. After 22 years, Egypt is once again the host of the IHF Men’s Handball World Championship in its 2021 edition after being awarded the rights back in November 2015.
On October 5, 2020, organizers launched “Horus,” the official mascot of the Championship.
This is an ode to the great Pharaonic history of the hosts. “Horus” is the god of the sky who sent his sons to achieve peace and prosperity in the four sides of the Egyptian lands. The organizers also decided to include the “Ankh,” the “key of life,” to be part of the Championship logo. The Ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that was most commonly used in writing and in Egyptian art to represent the word for “life” and, by extension, as a symbol of life itself.
The world will definitely be brought to life again through this event as 32 teams converge in Egypt for the Championship. In the past, only 24 teams were allowed to participate, but beginning the 27th edition, IHF added 8 more teams into the fold.
Previous co-host and reigning champions Denmark aim to defend their title even as podium finishers Norway and France look to better their 2019 finish.
The 2019 edition was also a historic one as it saw the participation of a Unified Korea squad composed of players from the northern and southern regions. This was apparently a one-off opportunity as the 2021 edition will only feature the Republic of Korea.
The Championship opened last January 13, 2021 at the Cairo Stadium Sports Hall in the presence of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi where the hosts played Chile in a rousing 35-29 win.
Matches will continue to be played at four main venues, the Cairo Stadium Sports Hall, New Capital Sports Hall, Dr Hassan Moustafa Indoor Sports Complex (formerly 6th of October) and Borg Al Arab Sports Hall, until the final round on the 31st of January.
Due to the sensitive health issues surrounding the event, Egyptian state institutions have come together to provide all the facilities required for the successful hosting of the Championship in a sophisticated and distinctive manner. Organizers have thought through the ideal structure, management and administration of the event, as well as employing the necessary experienced workforce to ensure a smooth-sailing experience for everyone.
Several days before the event, the IHF also confirmed that this year’s World Championship in Egypt will be held without spectators consistent with COVID-19 precautions.
The decision has been taken after Egypt reported 989 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total number of infections to more than 148,000. The medical precaution plan for the tournament has been expanded to include a full bubble format with hotels exclusively reserved for event stakeholders.
More and more, international federations are resuming their operations and picking up from where they left off before the global pandemic began. This Egyptian experience in handball follows similar bubble formats being implemented in various sports around the world such as basketball, badminton, golf, water polo, swimming, etc. It is no surprise that this rush to hold tournaments is in line with the run-up to the highly anticipated Tokyo Olympics this coming July.
Edited by Aldo Tong