Zimbabwean handball and IHF mourn passing of influential coach Clemence Leonard

14 May. 2020

Zimbabwean handball and IHF mourn passing of influential coach Clemence Leonard

The IHF and President Dr Hassan Moustafa were shocked to hear of the tragic death of Zimbabwe’s men’s national junior coach Clemence Leonard, aged 38, last week.

The Zimbabwe Handball Federation (ZHF) announced the news with a statement from their Secretary General Edson Chirowodza.

“We have received the news that Clemence had an accident after falling from a tractor he was driving…he was rushed to the hospital but could not make it. It’s another dark cloud for handball and may his soul rest in eternal peace.”

Leonard is well-known in Zimbabwean, African and international handball at a developmental level having attended numerous IHF Trophy and Partille Cup events with a variety of teams from the African nation. 

In 2018, he led the Zimbabwe side to bronze at the combined 2018/19 IHF Men’s Trophy CAHB Africa – Zones VI and VII in Zambia and was set to return to IHF Trophy action with his nation last month at the 2020/21 IHF Men’s Trophy CAHB African Zone 6 competition, before it was postponed due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

The competition was going to be extra special as it would have been the first-ever IHF Trophy event hosted by the ZHF, with Leonard an influential and leading presence in the event.

According to multiple reports in local media, Leonard joined the ZHF in 2010, becoming coach for Mashonaland West Province at the National Youth Games in 2012 and going to the Partille Cup the same year as assistant coach with the national team. In 2017, he became the men’s national team coach. 

Alongside Innocent Kanosvova and former Swiss international Rolf Haussener, he had also been working with the younger age (U21) men’s team under the ‘Zimbabwe Handball Federation Vision 2024’ to build a national side that can challenge for qualification for the 2024 Olympic Games. 

In his thirst to help promote the sport in his country he was also a founding member of the Mashrhino Sports Academy, which aimed to “develop athletes with an international appeal skill-wise who perform to podium level … with a focus on youth development from grassroots level.” 

Back in 2016, Leonard took a Mashrhino side to Partille to compete, as well as whistling in the global competition as a referee, stating back then that “everyone has the opportunity to exchange experiences and learn from each other and when you see this you can't help but dream that one day you will see a Partille Cup in Africa.”

“It is a dark moment for the handball fraternity and a loss to Zimbabwe sport,” added Chirowodza in an interview with Zimbabwe's largest daily newspaper, The Herald. “We are really grieving as we had a vision to fulfil together with him. It’s so sad. He was very quiet, calm, committed to duty and goal-oriented – he was someone who would always want to learn.”

On behalf of the global handball community Dr Moustafa and the IHF would like to express their deepest sympathies to everyone associated with Mr Leonard and wish them all peace and strength during this difficult time.