Egyptian Sanad wants to take the competition by stormArticle
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AROUND THE WORLD: Hussein Zaki showed us that an Egyptian player can reach the top of the sport. Now, Mohamed Hisham Sanad is impressing in La Rioja and has only one dream: a VELUX EHF FINAL 4 berth

»EHF CL Channel »2016-17 Men's News

Egyptian Sanad wants to take the competition by storm

Handball holds a special place in the hearts of many in Egypt. A fourth place finish at the 2001 World Championship has led many journalists and players lay claim to it being “the country's most successful team sport."

It was a moment of inspiration that made the whole sporting nation proud and saw an appetite develop for handball in the African country.

Mohamed Hisham Sanad was only 10 then and had already been playing handball for two years, but knew he had to follow in star player Hussein Zaki’s footsteps.

“When I was really young, my father just felt I would be a good handball player, so he took me to the local club in Heliopolis, when I was just eight.

“I loved this game, I saw that the Egyptian players have potential to be great and I never looked back,” said Sanad, who is currently in his first VELUX EHF Champions League season and has scored 14 goals for Naturhouse La Rioja.

There were a few Egyptian players who enjoyed a spell in Europe, with Hussein Zaki being the most successful as he won the Champions Trophy and was an EHF Champions League finalist with Ciudad Real.

Now, another Egyptian player is living the dream in Spain. The 25-year old right wing is enjoying life in Logrono, after being the only European-based player to play for Egypt at the Olympic Games in Rio.

The African team only finished fifth in their group, one point behind Poland and a place in the quarter-finals. Sanad was his team’s top scorer, with 18 goals in 5 matches, and starred in the historic win against Sweden.

His successful outing in Rio made Sanad a man sought by several clubs and ultimately he made the switch from Hungarian team Komloi to Naturhouse La Rioja.

“Language was the main problem”

“I have travelled a lot in my life; therefore I have seen many different cultures and ways of life. I think that is the main reason my adaptation in Europe was not difficult,” said Sanad, after his first contact with Spanish handball.

The right wing identified the Spanish language as the main problem, but overcoming such an obstacle proved easy for Sanad.

“I have been learning Spanish for several months now and I actually understand it a lot, and that is very helpful. Speaking is more difficult, but I am getting there,” added Sanad.

The Egyptian right wing is now living the dream and enjoying his maiden season in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

“When I was just a little boy in Egypt, I could only have dreamt of playing on such a stage, in such an important competition.

“Now everything is real, and I think it is a great feeling to play here. I think it is different than playing in any other competition and I am lucky to be a part of this,” said the 25-year old.

Best 7 inclusion and a top goal

Sanad’s maiden season in Europe’s top flight has already been prosperous, with his seven-goal outburst against Montpellier HB, bringing Naturhouse an important 31:30 win on home court.

His presence has already earned him plaudits, with the Egyptian wing included in the ‘Best 7’ of Round 2.

“It feels amazing to play good in all the matches. For me, it was a personal objective to see myself in the ‘Best 7’ players of the round and I needed only two matches for this.”

Not only did Sanad shine in the game against Montpellier, but he also scored one of the best goals of Round 2, with a cheeky shot that rendered the opposing goalkeeper without a chance.

“I think this is not the end of my limits as a player. But in order to be a top one, I have to keep my performances at a certain level and do my best to improve.

“Having a great game always motivated me to be better, to show that it was not a one-time thing and I have the potential to be a top player,” concluded Sanad.

Dreaming of Cologne

Therefore, the sky is the limit for Sanad, who is already preparing to shine on the big stage for his national team at the World Championship in France, where Egypt will be present for the 13th time in a row.

But until January, the Egyptian player is only thinking short-term, as La Rioja has still five matches to go in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group C, which they are currently leading.

“Right now I'm putting all my focus with La Rioja to reach the highest rank we can achieve and I will give my most to help the team move forward.”

As far as long-term goals go, Sanad has only one important objective.

“Any player would love to play in one of the top teams in Europe and of course it is a dream to play in the FINAL 4. But to manage this, I need to show my potential and improve game by game.”

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cor