Handball

Viral handball sensation Mvumbi scores 4 against Olympic champs, gets shout-out from Shaq

DR Congo's pivot Gauthier Mvumbi is a viral hit at the Egypt 2021 Handball Worlds, bagging goals against Denmark and getting a shout-out from the NBA legend.

By Ken Browne ·

There's been plenty of drama and shocks at the Egypt 2021 Men's World Championships of handball already, with last-minute withdrawals, Covid quarantines, and surprise results:

Tokyo 2020 hosts Japan drawing 29-29 with Euro 2020 runners-up Croatia for example, or rising nation Brazil tying at the exact same score on the same day with European champions Spain.

But one man has really caught the attention in Cairo, and that's DR Congo pivot Gauthier Mvumbi - and even basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal is getting in on the act.

"They say you're the Shaq of team handball, what's happening?" - Shaquille O'Neal

The 26-year-old big man Mvumbi stole the show against Argentina in his nation's first ever game at a handball world champs, standing 1.92m (6ft 2inch) tall and weighing in at 110+ kilograms the Argentines simply did not know how to deal with his physical presence.

Mvumbi played 11 minutes and 17 seconds against the Albiceleste and scored four goals from four shots, six metres out.

Then when DR Congo faced the reigning World and Olympic champs Denmark, Mvumbi again made his mark, scoring four more goals and maintaining his 100% scoring record until he finally missed a shot in the second half.

Now star man Mvumbi and the African debutantes are looking ahead to Tuesday when they face Bahrain for a chance to progress to the next stage of the tournament.

In the IHF's most inclusive men's tournament ever, Mvumbi might just be the unlikely hero of the tournament, helping promote the sport worldwide.

Read on to find out more about this viral breakout star's handball story.

Shaq shout-out to Mvumbi

In an expanded World Championships in Egypt that went from 24 to 32 teams, DR Congo are one of four debutantes alongside Cape Verde, Uruguay and Morocco.

And it was a fine debut for the central African team against Argentina on Friday (15 January), they led Pan American champs Argentina at half time 14-13, but the blue and whites took control in the second half, eventually winning by 28-22.

But there was no doubt who the star was, Mvumbi's performance went viral and even reached Shaquille O'Neal in the States, Shaq posting a video to his Instagram story:

"They say you're the Shaq of team handball, what's happening," said the NBA hall of famer.

Mvumbi couldn't believe it, replying on Instagram:

"A dream that becomes reality that I do not believe in it ... my idol @shaq 🙏🏾🙏🏾 my star 💫 🙏🏾🙏🏾 and I say thank you to you for your message and your support .. I do not quite understand what is happening but what I have to say to you: live your dream and fight for what you are."

Mvumbi against the world

An even bigger test came against the mighty Denmark who boast some of the world's best players like Mikkel Hansen, Niklas Landin, and Mads Mensah Larsen.

And while the Danes won the game 39-19 it was a great experience for the newcomers to get a taste of handball at the highest level and set their own bar higher.

Mvumbi again impressed scoring four goals, despite the Danes double-teaming him and doing everything they could to stop the ball getting to him.

Unfortunately, Mvumbi didn't get a chance to steal Mikkel Hansen's famous headband as the three-time IHF Player of the Year didn't step on the court, being rested for challenges to come.

"Denmark holds the title of the World Cup, I was able to contribute 4 points for my team," - Mvumbi on social media after the match.

Next up for DR Congo and Mvumbi is Bahrain on Tuesday, it's their final preliminary group game and if they win they can proceed the next stage of the tournament in the main group.

"Call me 'El Gigante'" - Gauthier Mvumbi

It's a nickname that needs little explanation for a man who stands 1.92m (6ft 2inch) tall and weighs more than 110 kilograms , but his unique combination of skill and power are evident every time Mvumbi plays.

Gauthier Mvumbi's handball story

Born in Chartres, France, to Congolese parents from Kinshasa, Mvumbi began his handball journey at his local club before joining neighbour side Vernouillet.

It wasn't long before opportunity came knocking and he was invited to join the elite Creteil Handball Academy, holding court with some of France's current national team players like Nedim Remili and Hugo Descat.

In August the 26-year-old Congolese player signed for French fourth division team Dreux AC, one of the opposition coaches saying "he's a different player, you can't move him," as reported in the local Chartres newspaper L'Echo Republicain.

Now he's living his dream, playing in a World Championships at Egypt 2021.

"I never thought I'd live this so I have to make the most of it. My aim is to have fun, to really give it my all," he said.

He's not just playing for DR Congo, Mvumbi is helping show the world that game of handball is for everyone and his story is bringing attention to a sport that is growing rapidly worldwide.