Teams arrive in Guinea, African junior women’s championship is ready
18 Feb. 2022
The postponed 2021 edition of the African Handball Confederation (CAHB) Women’s Junior African Championship starts in Conakry, Guinea, this Saturday 19 February, before finishing one week later, on 26 February.
Eight teams have arrived in the west African nation’s capital city to battle it out for continental honours and one of the four qualification places on offer for the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship, which will be played in Slovenia from 22 June to 3 July.
Eight teams looking for continental crown and Slovenia 2022 ticket
Across 20 games in total, Angola, Egypt, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Algeria, Nigeria and Tunisia will compete for the title, starting with two preliminary groups of four teams each.
That preliminary group stage will feature four games a day over three match days (19, 20, 22 February) with the top two teams in each group, after the round-robin stage, going directly into the semi-finals (24 February) and confirming their Slovenia 2022 ticket.
The bottom two teams in each preliminary group will move into the 5-8 placement round, starting on the same day as the semi-finals, with the final placement matches all played on Friday (25 February) and the bronze- and gold-medal matches played on Saturday 26 February.
New, experienced and champions
The next generation of African female players have had to wait nearly three years for continental action with the previous edition of the championship taking place in Niger in 2019 and the 2021 edition being delayed due to COVID.
Nearly 900 days ago in Niamey, Tunisia came back from a half-time deficit in the 2019 final to beat pre-championship favourites Angola 26:25. It was Tunisia’s first-ever women’s continental title at the junior level after five second place finishes – four of which were behind their final opponents.
Senior Tunisia women’s coach Moez Ben Amor is with the team in Guinea and along with the rest of the delegation are looking towards retaining their hard-fought title, but it will be hard with the continental heavyweights Angola looking for revenge.
Before their loss in 2019, Angola had won the previous three editions of the championship – in Côte d'Ivoire (2017), Kenya (2015) and Republic of the Congo (2013) – and with nine titles to their name, they remain the record-winning nation.
Ahead of their departure to Guinea, the entire Angolan delegation took part in a ‘National Flag Ceremony’ at the ‘Gallery of Sport’, with team captain Stelvia Pascoal receiving the flag from former national team player and now Minister of Youth and Sports, Ana Paula Sacramento Neto. “I have the responsibility of motivating the team and putting into practice what the coach has said,” said the 19-year-old Pascoal at the ceremony.
Egypt have prepared in-depth for the championship in Europe with a training camp held along with the youth team, in Germany and Poland at the beginning of this month where they played club teams.
As usual, Nigeria have put strong expectations on themselves ahead of a championship.
“We are ready to win the cup and make Nigeria proud,” said captain Toyin Yusuf to local media ahead of their departure to Guinea. “With everything our coaches have put us through we believe we are tactically and technically capable of doing well in the competition.”
Head coach Bukola Duru was also in no doubt about success in Guinea. “We are ready and with the level of training they have been getting, we'll ensure we make Nigeria proud…we will…ensure we will not just qualify for the World Championship, but also win the cup.”
That remains to be seen – Guinea will be just the second time in 14 editions that Nigeria have appeared – but with players like Yusuf gaining valuable experience in the Nigerian Handball Premier League, the future looks bright for handball in the country, which has considerably improved its presence and performance on a continental level in recent years – and having their training and preparation period at the Aguiyi Ironsi Military Cantonment in Abuja ahead of the championship highlights the organisation and planning the Handball Federation of Nigeria have invested into ensuring success in Guinea.
In just their second-ever appearance in the competition, 2022 host nation Guinea won bronze in Niger and, with it, a place at the 2020 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, which would have been their debut appearance in the competition.
However, that appearance never happened, with the competition cancelled. Despite that disappointment, the Guinea Handball Federation (FEGUIHAND) have continued their national team push and as soon as the junior event finishes, they will turn their attention to the youth edition (27 February – 6 March), as is tradition in the continent.
The country, which became a member of the IHF in 1972, has been working hard to deliver an impressive and successful event, which has also included the launch of a new federation logo.
At an opening media conference for the championship, FEGUIHAND President Mamadouba Paye Camara praised the effort and support from all sides in hosting the prestigious pair of events, while looking at what his young teams can achieve on the court.
“The Guinean government is in charge of the whole organisation [with] the awards, travel and accommodation of the teams have been regulated by the Ministry of Youth and Sports,” he explained.
“The goals for our two teams is qualification for the IHF Junior and Youth Women’s World Championships. They are already online for the best approach with the coaches and players ready to take on this challenge at home.”
Zambia will make their championship debut, while Burkina Faso return to the continental stage for the first time since 2011, when they appeared for the first time.
The first edition of the CAHB African Women’s Junior Championship was held in 1980 in Lagos, Nigeria (NGR).
Group A: Angola (ANG), Egypt (EGY), Zambia (ZAM), Burkina Faso (BUR)
Group B: Guinea (GUI), Algeria (ALG), Nigeria (NGR), Tunisia (TUN)
Photo: Fédération Guinéenne de Handball