HANDBALL is shaping up as one of the showpiece events of the sports fraternity in Zambia with so many talented players lining up for honours.
The year 2014 saw remarkable improvements in handball, with Zambia being ranked 9th on the African continent following an impressive performance at the Africa championship held in Kenya.
This achievement was followed by the minting of a silver medal at the International Handball Federation (IHF) Zone Six Challenge staged in Lusaka which saw Mozambique get the better of Zambia in the final to win the tournament.
Zambia has this year showed amazing strength and character in their search for silverware and though they only minted silver medal, the commitment shown represented a signature of triumph and it won’t be long before that become a reality.
A 500 miles journey begins with one step, so says a famous Chinese proverb. With a view of establishing a formidable team at national level, the handball took a giant step decades back to build a strong team that would compete favorably against Africa’s heavyweights.
Today, Zambia is positioning itself as one the emerging handball teams on the continent with some outstanding players, bearing fruit gradually.
Having wrapped up the 2014 calendar in rather a satisfactory fashion than a disappointing one, Zambia has became one of the emerging teams in Africa to a greater extent but now comes yet another test that should define the gains scored so far.
The draws for the Congo Brazzaville 2015 All Africa Games handball qualifiers have been done and Zambia has to go head to head with the likes of Angola, Mozambique and South Africa after being pitted in group Five.
On paper, group five seems to be a group of death but in reality, it is an opportunity for Zambia to prove its worth by facing some of the best teams on the continent.
Reigning champions Angola and South Africa are favorites to make it out of this group to the Games but buoyed by the Zone Six challenge final berth, Zambia and Mozambique will stop at nothing less than qualifying to the games.
The enthusiasm that is running through the Handball Association of Zambia (HAZ) president Victor Banda, who has described the group as fair, will surely afford the spectators some of the most exciting displays on the Zambia side when the qualifiers begin next month.
Mozambique gets into the qualifiers as the in-form team off the back of their gold medal performance at the Zone Six Challenge but the All Africa Championship holders Angola are a powerhouse of handball in Southern Africa.
The Angolans this year celebrated the national handball day to mark the beginning of the practice of the sport in 1974, a year before the country achieved its independence from Portugal and since then, the country has won 11 titles at continental level with the national senior women team.
South Africa has a strong grassroots structure and proper handball infrastructure. Their consistency at major tournaments over the years makes them one of the serious contenders for the two qualifying spots.
However, these three teams must be forewarned of Zambia’s strength.
Team Zambia will need to stay alert to ensure that they give themselves a chance of qualifying for the Games.
The Zambia team consists of some of the impressive players on the continent and qualifying for the All Africa Games will mark the beginning of a wonderful era of a very successful time for these youngsters.
Taking into account the commitment that has been shown so far, Zambian team has become a superb force befitting the high level competition but for now, it will be fascinating to see how much work goes behind making the team ready for the challenge.
The seeds for the all-conquering transformation in Zambia’s handball must be sown now and if Zambia is to pip Angola, Mozambique and South Africa into qualifying for the Games, preparations should start well in advance.
True to this, it is gratifying to note that HAZ has already commenced preparations for the qualifiers knowing the caliber of opponents Zambia will face.
In modern sport, the underdog tag is non-existent and even though Zambia’s opponents are tough and tested, the team is eager to pull off some heroics to clinch qualification.
Therefore, as the team shapes up for the qualifiers, the players need exceeding strength, skill and an aggressive mental ability to deliver good results.
Confidence and self-belief are paramount in their quest for the much needed success and the greatest ingredient that is a driving force to achieving this feat lies with their infinite potential and the winning mentality.
With this in the mind, Zambia will become an unstoppable force in the qualifiers as it poses a serious threat to its opponents in the group.
Mwenda ‘Bushido’ Bwalya, Chikatizyo Banda and the Muluti sisters are some the names that should inspire a breakthrough to the Games for Zambia.
However, much as these players possess massive talent on the court, there is need for the HAZ executive committee to consider organising some international friendlies matches strong team in the region ahead of the qualifiers.
Doing so will have a positive impact on the players as it will keep them in a competitive mood.
The handball body is one of the national sports associations that have been hit with a plague of inadequate financial support.
The Africa championships that were staged in Nairobi this year exposed some glaring deficiencies in as far as support to minor sports is concerned.
HAZ only managed to secure tickets for seven air tickets for players, meaning the Zambian team had no substitutes and the seven played all the games without resting.
Undergoing such a harsh reality must have been a wakeup call for the HAZ to commence early preparations with regards to securing funds for the team.
Now is the time to rectify some of the failures encountered in the year 2014 and the corporate entities should take keen interest in supporting the financially handicapped sports associations in the country in the spirit of empowering youths.
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