English handball player Josh Da Silva has signed a professional contract with leading Portuguese side AC Fafe - who play in Andebol 1 in the country’s top division.
Da Silva, 19, is part of a generation of exciting young handball players who have come through, or are in, the England Handball performance programme.
Da Silva, who has captained GB at Under-19 level, and played for the Under-21s and senior side, is delighted at the move. He said: “I'm really looking forward to the challenge and helping ACF progress this season. This will be my first taste of professional senior handball. I will be competing with some of the best Europe has to offer such ABC Braga, FC Porto, Sporting Lisbon and Benfica. It is probably the strongest handball league Portugal has ever seen.
“I started to play Handball just before the Olympics was about to start when my school entered the London Youth Games. I fell in love with the game immediately. By the time London 2012 started I’d already had the chance to play with the England Under-16 Development side. Watching the Olympics increased my enthusiasm for handball. I could never have imagined four years later I’d be stepping out on court with some of the GB Olympians. It’s been a great honour and I want to keep going, and hopefully GB can compete at the highest level again very soon.
“I have plenty of people to thank. Chris Baker, my PE teacher at Bromfords Secondary School introduced me to the sport. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“The England Handball Performance Programme and England Handball’s AASE programme has also been instrumental in my development. It’s meant I’ve benefitted from regular weekly coaching with some great players and coaches, including 2012 Olympians. It also provided the opportunity to further develop my handball in Denmark last season.
“I must also thank my family for their support. Also playing in Portugal will be great as it is where myfather is from.”
Da Silva’s Under-21 coach Ricardo Vasconcelos said: “This is a perfect example of the huge potential of players we have in this country. It also shows the results a sustained, serious and professional talent pathway with quality coaching can bring.
“We hope this can be the first of many professional contracts signed by GB players and it can inspire the young players currently on our talent pathway.
“However, above all, this is a testament to Josh's perseverance and belief that his dreams could come true – and the support he has had from his family.
“Mark Hawkins, his club coach in England, has been instrumental in providing a solid foundation to the start of his career.
“We should also not forget his school and PE teacher Chris Baker who introduced Josh to the sport.”
England Handball CEO David Meli said: “It is great news that Josh has signed a contract with AC Fafe.
"Josh is an example of the great strides forward handball has made in this country over the last five years.
"He was identified as a player to enter our performance programme. He has gone on to represent GB at age-group and senior levels. Legacy was a buzz-word of London 2012 and Josh is a true example of that legacy.
"We wish Josh all the best as he takes another important step on what promises to be a glittering handball career."