Stefan Lövgren reflects on African experience

In a little under 60 days, Egypt 2021 throws-off, becoming the third IHF Men’s World Championship to be held in Africa. Former Swedish international and 1999 IHF Men’s World Championship Most Valuable Player Stefan Lövgren still has fond memories of Egypt 1999, his first experience playing in Africa. Not only because Sweden triumphed in the final against Russia, but because of the unique experiences inside and outside of the halls.

“There were a lot of fans who had another way of cheering than we were used to in Europe, with scarves, dancing etc.,” said the former THW Kiel player, who also played at Tunisia 2005 and, with 49 assists, finished top of the assists chart in a championship where Sweden finished 11th. 

“Unfortunately, at world championships, you don’t get so much time to see or enjoy other things than the hotel or venues. In Egypt, we went on a nice boat trip on the Suez Canal, which was near our preliminary group venue, and when we moved to Cairo, we visited the Pyramids of course, and had a nice dinner on the Nile, otherwise it was mostly handball.”

But Tunisia 2005 was not the last time Lövgren played in Africa, two years later, he went back to Egypt to play in a very special match.

“I am sorry to say that the most of my games against African teams or players have been at world championships in other countries, but I did play again in Cairo with the IHF World Selection team,” said the player who scored over 1,000 goals for his country.

That event in Cairo took place in December 2007 and saw over 10,000 fans return to the Main Hall of the Cairo Stadium Complex to watch the IHF World Selection team play Egypt in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Egyptian Handball Federation.

Lino Cervar took charge of the team which featured Lövgren alongside Thierry Omeyer, Igor Vori, Didier Dinart, Siarhei Rutenka and beat the hosts 40:39, the last time the team of stars played since its formation in August 1968.

The legacy of Egypt 1999 and Tunisia 2005 is now set to be joined by Egypt 2021 as African handball continues to make its mark at the highest level and while Lövgren does not rule out working in the continent in the future, his immediate thoughts are Egypt 2021.

“We had Egypt as guests in Sweden in January 2019 as preparation for the 2019 IHF Men’s World Championship, but I have never had the opportunity to work in Africa with handball, but maybe in the future,” added the 49-year-old, who retired from playing in 2009 after a 20-year career which included four European Championship gold medals, two Olympic silver medals and four IHF World Championship medals.

“So many world championships are played in Europe, so many players do not get a chance to play in one outside of Europe, so, looking back on our win in Egypt, it makes it a little special, and for that I am proud and happy today.

“With so many positive memories from Egypt 1999, I must say that I am looking forward to this next world championship a little bit extra than normally and I really hope that it can be carried out in a safe way for all participants.”

Egypt 1999 was the fourth IHF World Championship hosted by the African continent with Nigeria having the honour of hosting the very first – the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship in 1989. This was followed by the 1993 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship, also in Egypt, and the 1997 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship in Cote d’Ivoire.

via IHF