Amateur Kenyan ice hockey team pursues dream of Olympics

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FILE - REUTERS

The amateur Kenyan ice hockey team has intensified training in pursuit of qualifying for Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.

A member of Kenya’s ice hockey team skates during a practice session.
REUTERS – FILE

The dream and the training are both difficult challenges considering their training facility in Nairobi is the only ice rink in East Africa.

The team has found it hard to secure friendly matches or opponents to compete against in the tropical climate in sub-Saharan Africa.

Last month, the team held a two-day friendly event in Nairobi against some diplomats and the team qualified for the finals but fell to a team from the U.S.

Team member Hassan Ali Shah said the Ice Lions got off to a great start even though the matches didn’t count.

“It’s a great feeling, especially for Team Kenya, since this is the first game we are hosting here in Kenya,” Shah said.

Ice hockey in Africa consists of six countries, and two countries are members of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

They are South Africa and Morocco while four are not members at the present time Algeria, Kenya, Egypt and Tunisia.

The team has come of age since the beginning of last year, training three times a day at the solar-powered Panari Sky Center in Nairobi.

In 2018, a Canadian sponsor flew 12 Kenyan team members to Toronto to play their first real game, a friendly against a team of firefighters.

Eric Landberg, who represented the European diplomats’ team in last month’s friendly match in Nairobi says the team has room for growth.

“It’s a young team but it’s already playing an excellent game and I must say that I have been very impressed by the development lately. I had a chance to play them before and I think they are developing all the time and they are already now a very good team. Their team spirit it’s really good,” Landberg said.

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