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Date: 8/22/2012

The list of the country’s names is as long as the list of wars the people suffered from: Congo, Kinshasa-Congo, Zaire and nowadays the second biggest African country is named Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 2002 the last war is officially over, but still there are some fights. But life is becoming normal among the 70 million inhabitants of DR Congo. One integral part of this normalization is sport. Traditionally in Africa football is the top sport, in DR Congo followed by basketball. But handball has already reached the third position. In total, about 3000 handball players are registered in DR Congo.

“We want to forge ahead to pass by basketball to become sport no. 2. This is our great hope and our great objective,” Celestin Mpoua, head coach of the women’s youth national team, said to www.ihf.info during the current World Championship in Montenegro. DR Congo have reached the World Championship in this age category for the second time after 2010 in the Dominican Republic. “We are aiming high in handball, not only the women’s, but also the men’s teams,” said Viktor Balibwa Wa Mwezi , the head of the DR Congo delegation in Montenegro.

On Sunday their team took their first – and surprising - World Championship point against Kazakhstan. “We profited from their mistakes in the end and from our strong defence. We are proud of this draw,” Mpoua said: “This is a really good result for us, as Kazakhstan have much more chances to gain international experience. In contrast to us they are surrounded by top handball nations like Russia and they have a close contact to those federations to improve. We need more of those international matches.”

But right in their final preliminary round match against clearly favoured host Montenegro, his team was close to the biggest sensation of the competition: DR Congo led 16:10, but absolutely unluckily gave a point away, losing the encounter 24:27. “But this was brilliant. Now we start the placement round with a boost of confidence, though we know that we are running out of energy,” Mpoua said.

In the senior competitions DR Congo showed a high performing level during the African championship in Morocco in January. The women’s team qualified as bronze medallist for the 2013 World Championship in Serbia, the men’s team unluckily missed the bronze medal and the qualification for the 2013 World Championship in Spain due to a defeat against Egypt in the bronze final. “We want to come or to remain among the top three handball nations in Africa in all categories,” Viktor Balibwa Wa Mwezi  hopes for the future – and concerning the women’s youth, junior and senior teams: “Once we hope to be able to beat Angola. One of our disadvantages is that we do not have those international encounters, we only play inside our country.”

To improve the level of their squads, 13 men’s and eight women’s national team players are currently playing for French clubs. “We will have our preparation for the 2013 Women’s World Championship directly in France, the players from our home country clubs will join them there. We are proud to have a close contact with the French Handball Federation, we can count on their support,” coach Mpoua mentions their “direct line” to Europe.

Looking upon their current youth team competing in Montenegro, the officials hope that at least five players will directly join the junior team this year, the rest will follow one year later. Mpoua : “We hope for a bright future of handball.”