In 2016, Handball fans started seeing some hope when the national U-20 men’s team ended the long wait by winning the International Handball Federation (IHF) Africa Zone 5B Challenge tournament.
In 2016, the national league remained a two-horse race between Police and APR. The two have dominated the league since 2009 with Police having the upper hand. In 2015, for the first time in 10 years, the senior men handball national team was summoned to prepare to participate in Zone 5 qualifying tournament for All Africa Games that took place in Congo-Brazzaville.
Rwanda finished last in Group A without winning any game, behind Kenya and Uganda, and as a result, Rwanda Handball Federation resorted to preparing the national team from the lower level hence forming the U-18 and U-20 men’s teams that made their mark at regional and continental level in 2016.
Here, Saturday Sport takes a look at some of the highlights that featured in Rwandan handball last year.
U-18 handball team compete at African Youth Championship
After the establishment of the above mentioned junior teams, in September, the U-18 team carried the national flag at the 18th edition of the Men’s Junior African Nations Championship that was hosted in Bamako, Mali.
Rwanda team finished seventh out of eight countries that graced the tournament. The team managed only one win, the seventh-place playoff match against hosts Mali 30-29.
Rwanda lost all their group B games—going down 45-15 against DR Congo, lost to Egypt 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 record-equaling 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.
Silver at 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 Championships that took place in the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé.
The tournament was organized by African Handball Confederation to attract all countries from the different zones, and is expected to be held after every two years in a bid to foster handball development on the continent.
Rwanda lost to Cameroon in the final b 17-37 hence settling for the silver medal, the country’s first major piece of silverware.
U-20 team wins IHF Africa Zone 5B title
In December, Rwanda handball federation efforts to develop the game from the lower levels bore the first fruits with the U-20 national team winning their first 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 the defending 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 dominate locally but remains small fish in Africa
Police handball remained the force to reckon with in Rwandan handball in 2016 after scooping the league title, Heroes Day, Genocide Memorial, Carre d’ As tournament while their bitter rivals APR walked away with Rwanda Cup.
However, both on the regional and continental level, Police failed to major any meaningful impression.
Police, who won 2015 East and Central Africa Handball Federation (ECAHF) tournament held in Kigali, failed to defend their title in Nairobi, Kenya.
The 2016 edition attracted only four clubs in the men’s category, namely; Police from Rwanda as well as Ulinzi, Black Mamba and Cereals all from Kenya, playing on a round robin format.
After three games, Ulinzi finished on top 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 (4 points) and a goal difference of three and Cereals finished bottom without a point.
Champions League curse still alive
For the third time in as many attempts, Police finished last at 2016 African Handball Champions League that took place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
The Rwandan league champions were drawn in Pool A and lost all of their group stage games and classification matches.
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 of 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.