The captains of the Egyptian men’s and women’s national goalball teams are relishing the chance to compete at home ahead of the 2020 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball African Championships which get underway in Port Said on Sunday (1 March).
As well as the title on offer, spots for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are also up for grabs for the winners.
Mohammed Tolba and Faten Gaber will captain the respective men’s and women’s teams.
At just 21 years of age, Tolba could be excused for having modest expectations. However he is clear of his team’s aims: “To win first place to raise Egypt’s flag.”
Gaber, also a young captain at 20, echoed her compatriot’s vision: “It’s a huge motivation to qualify for Tokyo 2020.”
To do so Tolba and his Egyptian side have made some changes. At the last African Championships in 2016, the country lost out on gold to Algeria. Instead of going away and dwelling on their disappointment, they knew what they had to change.
“We worked a lot on our defense to reach our desired goals,” he said.
It was a similar situation with the women. They too faced Algeria and lost in the final.
Gaber is similarly optimistic about her team’s chances, believing them to be in the best shape ever: “We trained really hard to gain the strength that make us able to compete well and get to Tokyo 2020.”
Egypt’s history at the Paralympic Games is little talked about. Whilst Algeria have been the dominate African team in recent years, Egypt are in fact the holders of the most medals.
The men have two bronze and one silver medal from three consecutive Paralympics between 1984-1992, whilst Algeria are yet to finish on the podium.
Both Tolba and Gaher, who both began playing goalball at school, want to be at the helm if their teams return to the dizzy heights of Paralympic success.
The 2020 IBSA Goalball African Championships will be shown live at the Egyptian Blind Sports Federation YouTube
. Coverage will be available throughout the tournament between 1-5 March at the IBSA website.