Japan set the pace, visit pyramids as 32 teams arrive for Egypt 2021

11 Jan. 2021

Japan set the pace, visit pyramids as 32 teams arrive for Egypt 2021

With the world watching, teams competing at the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt have started arriving in the North African country as they prepare to compete for the title from 13 to 31 January.

For the first time ever, the championship will feature 32 teams and Japan were the very first to arrive to experience not only the warm Egyptian hospitality but also the strict measures relating to the ‘Egypt 2021 COVID-19 Medical Precaution Plan’.

Just over a week ago (Sunday 3 January), the Japan team delegation, coached by Dagur Sigurdsson, flew to Cairo International Airport, where they were met directly from the plane by a special COVID-19 secure Egypt 2021 bus before then being PCR-tested for the first time. 

After settling in their hotel, they then trained (4 January) before facing host nation Egypt in the first of two friendly matches in three days (5 and 7 January) with both games used as test events and preparation matches for the championship.

“The two friendly games will serve as rehearsals,” said Chairman of the Egypt 2021 Local Organising Committee (LOC), Hisham Nasr. “The LOC is working on trying everything in detail during those friendly matches – we don't want to leave anything out. We will go through the whole experience in detail; a live and real rehearsal of the opening match, the organisation and halls' facilities.”

While both matches were used to assess the current level of preparedness for the Egypt 2021 organisation, for Japan, they both ended in defeat, but with two strong performances.

The first match finished 34:29 (17:16) to the home team, while the second game saw another close first half, followed by an Egyptian victory 33:25 (16:15). Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports Dr Ashraf Sobhy was present at both games and commented on his satisfaction with the precautionary measures being strictly adhered to while expressing his admiration for the volunteers, according to the official championship website.

A few days after his arrival in Egypt, Sigurdsson expressed his own satisfaction with the organisation of the championship so far: “Since we arrived, everything has been great from reception at the airport to transport to the hotel,” he said. “Our players are in good health and we are looking forward to a good tournament.

“We arrived early, in agreement with the Egyptian Handball Federation whom we have a great relationship with. We can see that Egypt has done a great job organising the event and have prioritised players’ health and safety in these tough times.”

Thanks to their early arrival, the Japan team delegation were also able to visit the world-famous Giza Pyramid Plateau to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx. 

The tour was conducted under strict health and safety controls as per the ‘Egypt 2021 COVID-19 Medical Precaution Plan’ and within the framework of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, who have been working closely with Egypt 2021.

Since their arrival more than a week ago, the Japan team delegation have taken a PCR test every 48 hours with all results coming back negative to date.

A further five teams are set to arrive today (Monday, 11 January).

PHOTO: Yukihito Taguchi /JHA