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Handball at School Programme Yields Dividends in Sierra Leone

Handball has been continuously growing and developing throughout the world. The International Handball Federation (IHF) has both chimed in and lent a hand to help enhance this development, especially in countries where the tradition of the sport is just starting to be built.

This is why in 2011, the Handball at School (H@S) programme was launched to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for children. Anyone can start playing, teaching or coaching children’s handball right here, with the help of resources such as the Teacher Guidelines, Youngsters’ Training Diary and promotional materials.

Countless countries have been entering the programme over the last decade, from different continents. Still, one of the most interesting stories comes from Sierra Leone, where handball coach Elongima Joseph Amara is making strides to develop the sport.

It is truly a story of perseverance, a story in which, irrespective of the difficulties found along the way, handball triumphs and, why not, maybe in the future, Amara’s attention and dedication will translate into Sierra Leone winning games on the highest of stages.

“I started handball in 2016. After my studies in Physical and Health Education at the Eastern Technical University in Kenema, Sierra Leone, I found the sport very interesting, so I decided to work with kids on the street of Kenema to train and teach them handball,” Amara told IHF Handball at School Working Group Chairwoman, Dr Ilona Hapkova.

With little domestic resources to kickstart his coaching career, Amara has not been deterred by these issues. He received the IHF Coaching Licence D from the IHF Handball at School Course in Kenema held by Dr Hapkova and continued to train children in the country with a little over six million population.

“The reason why I started handball is that children can play football, tennis, basketball or feature in athletics. In the Eastern Province of Kenema, Sierra Leone, we created a place right within the community where everybody can play handball. One can come and talk to coaches and mentors and work hard to become professional handball players,” added Amara.

The H@S frame introduced by the IHF helped both Amara and the handball in Sierra Leone to develop, with the country being one of the first that benefited from the programme, with handball infrastructure being set up by IHF development experts since 2011.

Therefore, with the constant development, now kindergarten children can come and start playing handball, either to have fun or to develop their skills and share the love of handball throughout the communities in Sierra Leone.

Amara has been trying to identify and develop young talented handball players who love the game, but also trying to make handball more prevalent in schools in Sierra Leone. His passion for handball does not stop here, with him organising annual handball competitions with teams from Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“The tournament, which has three days of competition, is called “Kenema City Mayors Handball Championship”. During this event, players are selected to the national team of Sierra Leone for international competitions,” adds the coach.

Amara’s progress has also been seen in international handball, as three of his players were part of the national team, which played in the IHF Zone 2 Challenge Trophy in Mauritania in 2018. Therefore, this has also made Amara work harder, as results are usually one of the best motivators.

“One of my goals is to have a standard handball facility here, in Kenema, because it means that children will be more eager to come. In my opinion, children should start playing handball as soon as they can; we cannot wait for them to be old enough or go to university to start playing.

“Unfortunately, handball is not yet part of the culture in Sierra Leone, but I hope that one day we will be able to inculcate this culture right from the beginning. Another goal is to see my club play in international competitions like CAHB Handball Championship League,” says Amara. But his ambitions do not stop here.

“One of my biggest goals is to have my club affiliated with handball clubs in Europe. That they can see the potential in us and be able to help us with handball materials like balls, training shoes and shirts to help develop the game in this part of the world,” concludes Amara.

Photos courtesy of Elongima Joseph Amara.

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