Gauthier Mvumbi was the unlikely star of the 2021 World Men’s Championship Handball Championship in Egypt.
Standing at 1.95 m and weighing 137 kg (6’5″, 301 lb), the opposing defenders felt that the DR Congo defender (or lineman as the position is also called) was simply too big to handle, earning the nickname ‘Shaquille O’Neal handball”.
In his country’s first appearance in world competition, Mvumbi scored 13 goals from 14 attempts – including four of five against eventual winners Denmark – while DR Congo finished 28th in the 32-team tournament.
His exploits it even attracted the attention of Shaq himselfand the couple had been in contact before finally a meeting last month in New York.
Read on to find out more about what happened to the mountain top since his escape from the World Cup.
Shaq of Handball, Gauthier Mvumbi: “I’ve had more success with sponsors than in sports”
Prior to the tournament, the French-born player played in the squad Krajowa 2 (N2) – the fourth division of French handball – for his home team Dreux AC.
Despite offers to play in Spain, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, Mvumbi moved to Nationale 1 Pouzauges Vendée HB before signing with Entente Territoire Charente Handball (ETEC) back in N2.
He said Le Quotidien du Sport that he was interested in ETEC’s offer to move up to N1, saying “Climbing is more interesting”.
When asked why he didn’t go to a team in the top French handball leagues, Starligue or Proligue, he said: “For a player like me, the handball market is quite closed. I am mainly an offensive pillar and defense is not my job. strong point Today, when handball is so fast, there is a danger of conceding a counter-attack if the coach uses me.
“It’s not that I don’t think I can play D1 (Starligue) or D2 (Proligue), I just don’t tick the boxes.”
Mvumbi has happy memories of the 2021 World Cup, saying: “It changed my life! It triggered things I’ve never experienced. The only disappointment is that I couldn’t qualify again in July for the World Cup with DR Congo.
“It ended up with one or two goals. We lost after extra time to Tunisia and then on penalties to Algeria… so it’s a shame we weren’t there.
While he is able to make a living from handball, off the field his career has really taken off.
Mvumbi admits that he has “been more successful with sponsors than in sports” since his exploits at the World Championships, signing a two-year contract with Japanese sportswear company Mizuno.
It also has its own “Handball Shaq” a branded clothing line that has another moniker he acquired in Egypt, “El Gigante”.
Speaking of Shaqu, since making contact during the 2021 World Cup, the pair have been working together to find investors for a handball league in the United States.
Already an ambassador for the Detroit Handball Club, Mvumbi works with O’Neal and New York Handball Club promote sports before Olympic Games in Los Angeles 2028.
When he spoke with Le Quotidien du Sport in November, he said he and O’Neal “had spoken regularly” and hoped the pair would reunite soon.
And a few weeks later, they finally met at a New York City Handball Club promotional event.
When handball Shaquille O’Neal met the real Shaq
Mvumbi told L’Equipe, as provided by RMC Sport“It hit me when I walked into the bar: he got up to greet me, gave me a hug and said: ‘You finally kept your word. You came to see me. I’m happy”.
“It’s Shaq! He showed me a lot of love and it touched me a lot. He’s so big. My head only reached his shoulder!”
Earlier, Mvumbi said he was in the process making a documentary about his life, which will include his encounter with O’Neal.
And although he did not want to go into details of their conversation or plans to work together, he added: “He likes me a lot and me too. He sees me as his little brother.”
O’Neal gave Mvumbi his jacket, which of course was a bit too big.
But if all goes well, “The Two Shaqs” will do everything in their power to make handball popular in the United States.