Professional handball in Kenya!

This heading does require some explanations, and these can be found in an interesting posting on the Danish web site, where a Danish handball player, Erik Junge Madsen, reports about his 'exotic' experience.

For the most part, handball is played at a rather modest level and under poor conditions in Kenya. It is a sport without long traditions and it does not really exist outside the capital Nairobi. The championship format consists of tournaments, with one final weekend event where the top six teams play each other in a round-robin format.

The recently completed championship event took place in an exciting atmosphere with a very noisy and supportive crowd of around 700 in a sold-out stadium. As Junge Madsen reports, the rules interpretation may not have been quite what one expects in IHF or Danish games, with physical action that "would be more cause for police interference than a mere yellow card."

While some of the participating teams come from very poor or outright dangerous settings and have to prepare under miserable conditions, there are some teams that are really 'professional' in the old Eastern European sense. This means that the teams are owned by large corporations and government agencies, so that the players can really train and prepare on an almost full-time basis.

Two such teams, Cereals and Ulinzi, qualified for the men's final, where Cereals came out a winner by a close margin, 28-27. Cereals belongs to a government agency and Ulinzi is a team from the military. Cereals also won the women's championship, and they have been the dominating team for many years in both categories.

Junge Madsen and his colleagues on the Nairobi University team got the bronze medals; their players are able to practice (outdoors) 3 times per week, depending on traffic and weather… The sixth-place team. Black Mambas, deserves particular mention as the only 'European-style' club team, with both a senior and a junior squad, trying to foster its own talents.