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Date: 7/23/2017

“I was very proud to see that score at half-time,” said Burkina Faso head coach Ba Banien Sirima, after his side left the court just 16:7 down against M20 EHF EURO champions Spain on Friday (21 July).

In just their third-ever IHF world championship match at any level Sirima’s team had managed to come close to keeping in touch with a team packed full of stars, including All-Star Team players from the last IHF Men’s Youth World Championship and that M20 EHF EURO.

“The message I gave to them at half-time was about defending,” said Sirima. “We knew that we could not have fast-breaks like Spain, and cannot go as fast as them, so we had to get the game to play at our own pace and try to find our own rhythm in that match.

“I was very happy that my players responded with wisdom to what I said,” he continued. “They listened and tried to do it playing their own handball, playing at their own rhythm. I was happy at half-time to see that it was happening, particularly against such a great team like Spain.”

“When I heard the national anthem for the first time in the first match I felt the responsibility of doing our best and to defend the honour of our country,” said pivot Mohamadi Ouedraogo. “I love handball and it is not a problem to make sacrifices and be at my best level to play.”

These days it is easy for players to keep constantly in contact with friends and family back home with the distance of travelling to world championships no longer a factor in staying in touch and for the 20-year-old pivot Ouedraogo it provides motivation daily.

“I am in touch with friends and family back home with social media,” said the USFA club player. “The majority of them are saying keep playing, keep fighting we know it is tough at this level of competition, but do your best and be proud of yourselves.

“Of course, people are also saying bad things, but that is normal, we are taking all that positively and looking for the best comments, it is important for us to be in contact with our families and friends.”

While Burkina Faso have games to win in Algeria, one eye is already on the next level of development on the global level and the 20-year-old pivot knows exactly what he has to do to improve.

“The first thing I have learnt here is that you really need to work hard physically,” he explained. “This type of competition is very physical and this is what I will take back home with me. 

“We can see that we don’t have the same level as the other teams, but we will continue to work hard. 

“We can talk about techniques and tactics but if you don’t have the physical fitness no matter what tactics or techniques you cannot play because you are not there physically.”

Captain Farouk Ouedraogo got a knee injury in their opening match against Tunisia and is set to miss most of the preliminary round, but as the leader of the group of players he understands the significance of the occasion, but is realistic about what they can achieve in Algeria.

“Back home, we knew it would be hard coming here, but like everyone, we came to win the cup,” he explained. “But, of course, we know the reality of the competition and our goal is simply to play the best handball we can from our hearts and make sure that we make progress here and learn so when we come back next time everyone should be able to say; ‘Burkina Faso have made progress.

“My role is to keep my teammates motivated and the coaches really take into account our observations on court, they will ask us how we feel and they take that into consideration – we all like that.

“This competition is a dream,” he continued. “It’s a dream for us to come here to defend our country and flag and it was a dream for me to play, and we will do our best to accomplish that dream.”