After An Inspiring Journey, Mouna Chebbah Pays Farewell to Handball

Tunisian Handballer Had Long Successful Career with the National Team and Clubs
The Tunisian Handball Legend Mouna Chebbah. (Supplied)

Mouna Chebbah, a Tunisian handball legend, announced her official retirement at the age of 39, capping off a 21-year career. A long march filled with individual and collective titles and accomplishments, where she spelled her name in gold letters and showcased Tunisian women's handball at its best.

Mouna Chebbah was born in the city of Mahdia in Tunisia's coastal center in 1982 to a low-income family. Her love of sports was strong, as she had participated in athletics and football since she was a child.

DESTINED TO PLAY HANDBALL

Chebbah began her career as a sprinter in the 1500 meter but quickly switched to handball. She failed her first tryout with ASF Mahdia due to her short stature.

Mouna Chebbah's persistence was admirable, as she returned and took another test in order to be selected for the Mahdia team. When she was 19, she quickly ascended to the ASF Mahdia's first team, where she was one of the team's youngest players at the time.

After one season, Chebbah moved to ES Ariana in Tunisia's capital, and she was one of the country's first professional handball players.

 

Tunisia's Mouna Chebbah executes a penalty shot against Cuba's goal during their Women's World Handball Championship match, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on December 6, 2011. AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi Chiba

Mouna Chebbah demonstrated distinguished levels of skill during two consecutive seasons in the Tunisian League with the Carthage Eagles' women's team.  She quickly became the leading talent and a rising star in the Arab handball sky.

Chebbah began her career as the top scorer in the Women's World Championship in Hungary in 2001, and in Tunisia she led the ES Ariana team to a league and cup double in 2003.

DEVELOPING IN FRANCE & FLYING HIGH IN DENMARK

Chebbah began her professional career in Europe in the summer of 2003 when she started in the French league with Angoulême before joining Besançon in 2005. She spent three distinguished and remarkably brilliant seasons at the club, winning the award for best left-back player at the end of her second professional experience in 2008.

In the summer of 2008, the Tunisian star joined Esbjerg, and in 2010 she joined Viborg HK, the best European team at the time, to begin a great success story and to make a leap in her career.

Chebbah was named the Danish league's best player in 2009 while playing for Esbjerg, and she also won the Danish league title with Viborg HK in 2014, as well as the cup title four times in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014.

Chebbah won the Danish Super Cup with Viborg in 2011, and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 2014. She returned to France with Nîmes Olympique the following year and had a fantastic career with the team. In one of his most famous quotes, Nîmes Olympique club president Bernard Roux stated: "It was Mouna Chebbah who brought the lights to the club." 

CHEBBAH’S CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE NATIONAL TEAM

After a golden era in the 1970s, the Tunisian women's handball team suffered years of insignificance. The rise of Mouna Chebbah’s star in Europe's skies played a significant role in the Carthage Eagles women’s returning to the fore and ascending to the podiums.

Chebbah played in the 2009 World Championship in China, where Tunisia finished 14th and Chebbah was one of the top ten scorers.

Chebbah appeared in the 2010 Africa Nations Championship final, which Tunisia lost to Angola. She was voted the tournament's best player.

She competed in the 2011 World Women's Handball Championship in Brazil, where Tunisia finished 18th. Chebbah was named to the All-Tournament Team and voted best player of the 2012 African Women's Handball Championship in Morocco, where Tunisia finished second behind Angola. Tunisia finished 17th at the 2013 World Women's Handball Championship in Serbia, thanks to her participation.

Chebbah won a gold medal with the Tunisian team at the 2014 African Women's Handball Championship, defeating DR Congo in the final. She won gold at the 2014 African Women's Handball Championship.

Wissem Hmam, a Tunisian handball star who has had a successful career with the various teams he has played for as well as on the international level with the Tunisian national team spoke to Majalla about Chebbah's inspiring journey.

The legend of the "terrible forearm" of international handball fans emerged in the 2005 World Cup, which Tunisia hosted. Hmam finished as the tournament's top scorer (81 goals) and led his country to fourth place, the best in Tunisian participation in the world championships so far.

 

Tunisian Handballplayer Wissem Hmam (Montpellier HB) during the Schlecker Cup 2007 in Ehingen (Germany)

 “Mouna Chebbah is regarded as one of the pioneers of Tunisian women's handball, having made significant contributions at the Arab and African levels,” Wissem Hmam told Majalla.

“Chebbah became a professional handball player in the French and Danish leagues, where she won numerous individual and collective titles and was praised by international newspapers for her morals,” he continued.

“Mouna Chebbah was the Tunisian women's handball ambassador, and she honored Tunisian and Arab football abroad after making a proven track record. I hope that the current generation of players will complete their brilliance and raise the banner of creativity after Chebbah retires,” the Tunisian handball star added.

Hman has hopes for her in the future: "I thank Mouna Chebbah for her contributions to Tunisian handball, and I hope to see her as a great coach whose work does not end on the field when she retires. We are proud of her as a player and will be proud of her as a coach in the near future."

When we asked him about the level of Tunisian women's handball in the previous period, he said that Tunisian handball needs a lot of support here because this is what is lacking.

"Despite this, Tunisian youth teams are performing admirably at the Arab and African levels. I hope Tunisian handball shines at both the men's and women's levels, regaining its luster in Arab and African forums and returning to the top."

Tunisian Mouna Chebbah. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON

"The “impossible” is not in the Tunisian mentality, and I am hopeful that Tunisian women's handball will win their second African title. I also hope that the Tunisian League will facilitate the professionalization of Tunisian female handball players abroad, as we have seen some of them do in the Romanian League and other leagues in the past, because the competition abroad will benefit Tunisian teams," Wissem Hmam concluded.

Chebbah's retirement comes after she wrote a bright chapter for Tunisian women's sports, where she flew high and was the best ambassador in the history of the game in the Arab world and Africa, and where she reached the pinnacle of her talent and fame with the Tunisian national team and in European halls.


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