THE Zimbabwe Handball Federation are looking at scoring a first in this country.
They would like to become the first national sport association from Zimbabwe to send more than 100 athletes and officials to a single major international tournament outside this country since we attained our Independence in April 1980.
Alphios Magiya, the ZHF secretary-general, said at the weekend that they were looking at sending a team of 126 athletes and officials to this year's Partille Cup that is set to run from July 1 to 7 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The Partille Cup is a youth team handball competition held in Gothenburg and is open for both boys and girls of ages 10 to 21 years.
It has been held annually since 1970 and organised by a Swede handball club, IK Savehof from Partille.
In fact, the Partille Cup is the world's largest handball tournament for young people and during one week every year, nearly 19 000 participants from 50 countries descend on Gothenburg to participate in the cup.
And Zimbabwe have once again been invited to compete in this year's Partille Cup where they are likely to be represented by more than five teams from six local primary and high schools -- Harare's Girls High School, Morgan High School, Kwekwe High School, Howard High School, Houghton Park Primary School and Chishawasha Primary School.
These six schools have already confirmed their participation at this year's Partille Cup through the ZHF and the federation's secretary-general, Magiya, revealed at the weekend that this will see Zimbabwe being represented by about 126 athletes and officials at this junior handball tournament in Gothenburg.
This will be the largest contingent of athletes and officials from a local national sport association to represent Zimbabwe at a single major international sporting event since the attainment of Independence in April 1980.
"Our team for this year's Partille Cup has increased in number as we are now likely to be represented by about 126 athletes and officials at this prestigious tournament. I think so far we will be the first country from the Southern African region to send more than five teams to this big international handball event.
"In fact, for this year's tournament in Gothenburg, we are also going to have an Under-12 team there as we have extended our focus to the Under-12s. We are not just looking at the Under-20s, 18s or 16s but we have moved to the grassroots level where we want the Under-12s from this country to be involved in the Partille Cup for the first time.
"What we want to see is that when these teams or kids come back from the Partille Cup, they will then share their experiences with the other budding handball players back home.
"In fact, what we are assured of is that when a team comes back from the Partille Cup, they (the players) will never be the same again as they would have had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of playing handball at the highest level and they will also have the experience of being out there in a European country where they will be playing against top clubs and national teams from the Scandinavian countries," Magiya said.
The ZHF secretary-general said their participation in the Partille Cup is all part of their on-going ambitious junior development programme.
"In fact, this year's trip to Gothenburg for the Partille Cup is so special to us in that we are also taking with us our president, Amon Madzvamuse, for the first time, why? Because we want him to see or witness the highest level of handball that will be on display at this tournament as all the top handball-playing nations from the developed countries will be there.
"All the age-groups will be there. Imagine 50 countries playing at one venue. So, we know that if we travel with our president, Madzvamuse, he'll have the motivation to come back and implement a lot of junior development programmes that we have in place here in Zimbabwe.
"Our aims and objectives are to become a handball powerhouse in Africa," Magiya said.
Musekiwa Kumbula, the ZHF patron, is also expected to accompany the team to Sweden for the Partille Cup.
Meanwhile, the first batch of Zimbabwean athletes and officials for this year's Partille Cup is scheduled to leave Harare for Gothenburg on June 27.
This team will be mainly made up of players and coaches who will take part in an Olympic Development Programme designed for the Under-12s.
Magiya said the Olympic Development Programme will be held ahead of the Partille Cup and this will see the young players going for an extensive training programme under the guidance of some top handball coaches from Europe.
"We will have two teams that will participate in the Olympic Development Programme where they will also have the opportunity of playing against local teams from Sweden as a preparatory phase before they enter into the main tournament.
"During this programme, the players will also be exposed to some high level of competition in Europe and it (the programme) will also give our coaches, who will be attached to these teams, the opportunity to develop themselves and get some exposure at the highest level."
Magiya also said they (the ZHF) are looking at raising US$20 000 that will, among other things, go towards buying the kit of the players that will take part in this year's Partille Cup in Gothenburg.
"In fact, the schools that have been picked to represent Zimbabwe at this year's Partille Cup have already embarked on some fund-raising activities for this trip as each school needs more than US$50 000 for their attire, airfares and accommodation.
"For our part as the ZHF, we are helping them in the processing of the visa applications of the players and officials but we also need to raise US$20 000 which will help us to buy the uniforms and blazers of the players and officials that will take part in this tournament.
"So, we are appealing to some well-wishers to come on board and help us to raise this amount so that we will be fully prepared before we leave for the Partille Cup at the end of June," Magiya said.