In 2015, after 10 years of inaction, the senior men national handball team was summoned to participate in zone 5 qualifying tournament for All Africa Games that took place in Congo-Brazzaville.
However, they finished last in their group A after Kenya and Uganda without winning any game. As a result Rwanda Handball Federation (FERWAHAND) resorted to preparing the national team from the grassroots level hence establishing the U-18 and U-20 men’s national teams that made their mark at regional and continental level in 2016. The story of Handball has remained a tale of struggle in the country.
As we continue with our 2016 sports’ review, let’s take a look at some of the highlights that featured in handball.
U-18 handball team compete at African Youth Championship
In September 2016, the U-18 team carried their first national flag in a continental event competing at the 18th edition of the Men’s Junior African Nations Championship that was hosted in Bamako, Mali.
Rwanda finished in the seventh place out of a total of eight countries that had graced the tournament.
The team managed to win only one game (the seventh-place playoff) against hosts Mali 30-29 during the eight-day biennial continental tournament.
Rwanda lost all their group B games—going down 45-15 against DR Congo, lost to Egypt by 56-12 before Tunisia added the insult to injury with a 40-7 win.
In the playoffs, Rwanda lost to Algeria 45-10 and Morocco 29-21 before beating Mali 30-29 to settle for 7th place.
Tunisia defeated defending champions and 16-time record winners Egypt 26-25 to lift their 16th title. Algeria finished third, DR Congo (4), Morocco (5) and Guinea (6) while Mali finished last.
Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria qualified for 2017 World Junior Championship that will be held in Georgia.
A silver medal at the inaugural Africa Zone 4, 5 and 6 Championships
Before heading to Mali, the U-18 team competed at the inaugural Africa Zone 4, 5 and 6 Championship that took place in the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé.
The tournament had been organised by African Handball Confederation to attract all countries from the respective zones, and is expected to be held after every two years in a bid to foster handball development from a younger stage.
Rwanda lost to Cameroon in the final by 17-37 goals hence grabbing their first ever continental medal.
U-20 team wins IHF Africa Zone 5B title, qualifies for continental show piece
In December, FERWAHAND efforts paid off with the U-20 national team making history after winning their first ever regional title.
After seven years of waiting, Rwanda won the International Handball Federation (IHF) Africa Zone 5B Challenge tournament after defeating hosts Uganda in the final.
The biennial tournament was staged at the Christian University in Mukono District, Uganda. Rwanda fielded only the men’s team at the event which attracted best talents from all regional countries affiliated in Africa Zone 5B. They included Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, South Sudan and hosts Uganda.
Rwanda finished the four-day tournament as the only unbeaten team, and crowned their campaign with a 38-32 win against champions Uganda.
Following this triumph, Rwanda will represent Africa Zone 5B in the 2017 African Championships that will take place in March in Gabon.
Police remain a continental small fry despite local dominance
As expected, Police handball remained a powerhouse to reckon. It scooped the league title, Heroes day title, Genocide Memorial title, Carre d’ As title while their bitter rivals APR walked away with Rwanda Cup.
However, both on the regional and continental level, Police have failed to break the jinx.
Police who won 2015 East and Central Africa Handball Federation (ECAHF) tournament here in Kigali failed to defend their title in Nairobi, Kenya at the 28th edition that took place in November.
This year’s edition had attracted only four clubs in the men’s category that included Police from Rwanda, and Ulinzi, Black mamba and Cereals all from Kenya playing in a round robin format.
After three games, each, Ulinzi finished on top of this group with four points and a goal difference of seven, Black Mamba finished in the second place also with four points and a goal difference of six while Police finished in the third place also with four points and a goal difference of three while Cereals finished bottom without a point.
Champions league curse still alive
For the third time in as many attempts, Police finished bottom at 2016 African Handball Champions League that took place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Police were drawn in Pool A and lost all of their group stage games and classification matches, hence finishing at the bottom of the log.
At the group stage, Police lost to Al Ahly (Egypt) 43-20, Caiman (Congo-Brazzaville) 36-33, Esperance Sportive de Tunis (Tunisia) 40-12, and Minuh (Cameroon) 44-12.
In the 9-11th place playoff, Police lost to AS Douane, from Burkina Faso, 34-32, before losing to Red Star, from Ivory Coast, 33-17.
The law enforcers made their maiden appearance in the continental competition in 2012 in Morocco before competing in the 2015 edition that was also staged in Morocco. However, they are yet to register a single win.