AFTER having raised their profile by sending four teams to the 2013 Partille Cup in Sweden in July, the Zimbabwe Handball Federation have received an invitation to participate at another major international tournament -- the Interamnia World Cup -- in Teramo, Italy, next year.
Like the Partille Cup, which is staged annually in Gothenburg, Sweden, the Interamnia World Cup is also rated as one of the biggest handball tournaments in the world and it also attracts top handball players from all over the world. In fact, the Interamnia World Cup can be considered as the handball Olympics. It is the largest international handball competition in the world and it is contested by men's and women's national teams from all over the world.
It takes place every year during the first week of July in Teramo, Italy, and it was played for the 41st time in July this year, the same month that the Zimbabwe Handball Federation sent three representative sides to the Partille Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden.
In July this year, the ZHF managed to send a strong contingent of 96 athletes and officials to the Partille Cup in Gothenburg and the Zimbabwean competitors were drawn from three school sides -- Harare's Girl High School, Chiweshe's Howard High School and Chishawasha Mission Primary School from Mashonaland East.
They were joined in Gothenburg by Mashrhino, a girls Under-13 select side from Mashonaland West Province.
This saw the ZHF scoring a first in this country as they became the first national sport association from Zimbabwe to send more than 90 athletes and officials to a single major international tournament outside our borders since we attained our Independence in April 1980.
And this remarkable feat caught the eye of the organisers of the Interamnia World Cup in Italy who have invited Zimbabwe to take part in next year's tournament in Teramo. Pier Luigi Montauti, in his capacity as the president of the Interamnia World Cup, recently sent out the invitation to Zimbabwe, saying that he would like to see this cementing relationships between the ZHF and his organisation. In my capacity as the president of Interamnia World Cup, (one of the biggest) international handball tournaments in the world, and in the sphere of a project of development of handball, I turn to your attention for a further involvement of Zimbabwe handball in international field.
"And I kindly invite you (the ZHF) to facilitate the future relationship between our sportive organisms. I would also like to take this opportunity to invite Zimbabwe to the next Interamnia World Cup (42nd edition) which will be held from July 6 to 11 July 2014. At the end of September we'll send you detailed information about the tournament and we are ready to accept a team representing Zimbabwe for the first time at this tournament," Luigi Montauti wrote from his base in Italy.
Meanwhile, an elated Amon Madzvamuse, the ZHF president, welcomed this latest development, saying it would go a long way in raising the profile of his federation in the world as well as the standards of handball in Zimbabwe.
"Basically, that's good and interesting news to us and it seems our dividends (of trying to uplift the standards of handball in Zimbabwe) are beginning to pay off because of late we were hunting for these kind of big international tournaments and they are now just coming to us.
"This also means that we are now a force to reckon with and the international world is beginning to recognise us and inviting us to participate at these major global events like the Interamnia World Cup in Italy. It seems like they've seen our progress as a federation and nation and it means we are doing a lot in terms of developing handball in this country," Madzvamuse said.
The ZHF boss said they were now going to formularise their leagues and try to come up with a strong men's and women's national team that will represent Zimbabwe at next year's Interamnia World Cup in Italy.
"We are currently on a registration drive for clubs that will form our national league and it is from these registered clubs that we will select the players that will represent us in Italy next year and beyond," Madzvamuse said.
Zimbabwe's intended participation at the Interamnia World Cup means the ZHF will have a busy schedule ahead of them next year as they still have to organise the country's participation at the Partille Cup in Sweden as well as coming up with a strong senior men's and women's national team for the trip to Italy in the same month of July. This means the ZHF leadership now have a Herculean task in their sponsorship drive as they have to engage the corporate world to come on board and bankroll the national teams' trips to both Sweden, for the Partille Cup, and Italy, for the Interamnia World Cup.
The ZHF currently do not have a major sponsor but with their profile rising on the international stage after each passing year, they are unlikely to find it difficult to find a number of financial backers for their federation which they are slowly turning into a big brand.