By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey
Egypt has a long history with the game of ice hockey and Interestingly, confirmed by archaeologists, the drawings at the tombs of Beni Hassan in Minya Governorate in central Egypt shows that Ancient Egypt was the cradle of the prototype of field hockey which is considered to be a closely related sport of ice hockey.
Egyptian ice hockey players are working hard since the year 2002 to establish the game of ice hockey in the country. We talked to Eslam Seliman General Administrator and player of Anubis team about Ice Hockey in his country.
Egypt has a long history with the game of hockey can you give us a brief history on how ice hockey got started in the country?
Ice Hockey started in Egypt in the early 2000s when some Egyptian youth started to show passion for the sport. The core trigger behind this was the fact that some Egyptian cities have seasonal and annual snowfalls like Saint Katherine City in South Sinai which makes them suitable hubs for winter sports, but unfortunately Egypt has a sole participation in the Winter Olympic Games in our sibling Muslim country of Bosnia in Sarajevo 1984. This group of Egyptian youth were excited to expand their ice skating skills to a sportive level like what they used to watch in sports news on TV where ice hockey games are broadcast. We started to dream of returning Egypt back to the Winter Olympic Games through an ice sport that we know and adore like ice hockey. In 2002, a few Canadian expatriates who work in El Maadi District in south Cairo granted some used ice hockey equipment to those Egyptian youth who emerged to be Anubis team later on.
How many players and teams are their in Egypt?
Now there are no less than 170 Egyptian ice hockey players. They can be divided to 80 Males, 70 Juniors, and 20 Females, that’s in addition to Anubis’s 26 foreigners. Regarding teams, Egypt now has 1 amateur team which has its headquarter at Ice Planet Rink in Maadi Family Land Mall, in El Maadi District. But during the annual Egyptian tournament, Anubis’s players and equipment gets divided into 8 teams. Anubis’s adult players also represent Egypt’s Men National Team which will participate in Africa’s 1st Ice Hockey Tournament in Rabat, Morocco on July 2016.
How many ice rinks are their in the country?
Egypt currently have 11 ice rinks in 6 cities, and they will be 12 rinks soon in 2017 by the completion of Egypt Mall’s Ice Rink in the city of 6th October in the west of Giza Governorate. Seven of those 11 rinks are ice while 4 are blanketed with wax. However, unfortunately all these rinks are extremely small with the largest of them spanning over only 300m2 in Sun City Mall in Sheraton District of east Cairo. That’s why we are currently planning with the Egyptian Ministry of Youth & Sports in addition to some Egyptian businessmen to build Egypt’s and North Africa’s first Ice Hockey Arena or at least install ice hockey ground in one of the existing Egyptian Sports Multi-purpose Arenas.
Our headquarter rink
Map of Egypt’s current 11 rinks.
When did the Anubis ice hockey form and is there an ice hockey league in the country?
Anubis, Egypt’s first ice hockey team was formed in 2002 under the name “Ice Hockey International School” (IHIS). Then in 2012 the team was named “Capital Biko” which means in our Ancient Egyptian Language “Capital City’s Hawks”. A single “Bik” in the Ancient Egyptian Language means a “Hawk”. Afterwards in 2015 the team was renamed to Anubis. So far there is no Egyptian Ice Hockey League, but instead, every year the Administration of Anubis team organizes an Egyptian tournament that takes place every Ramadan Hijri Month. The tournament gets contested between Egyptian amateur teams derived from Anubis’s players and equipment. This Egyptian Ramadani Tournament took place in 2012, 2015, and 2016 version will start next week and its final will occur in the first week of July.
How do you plan to get more ice hockey equipment to the country, thre seems to be a shortage of equipment right now?
Currently, we have about 50+ sticks in addition to 26 pucks and hundreds of skating shoes, but concerning protective kits of players and goalies we have less than 10. We tried hardly to buy protective kits for 1 goalie and 3 players but the kits are unbelievably expensive. The lack of such protective kits make us suffer some minor injuries because of playing without these vital equipment. Through Egyptian ice hockey players living abroad in Europe and North America we managed to get some used equipment and Egypt has an ice hockey IIHF Official in the Asian Division called Mr. Ahmed Gaber who helps us in getting used equipment from other Islamic Countries in Asia. We plan to buy equipment when we succeed in getting major sponsors who can fund us.
The Egyptian Ice Hockey Federation (EIHF) has not been established yet, when do you think this will happen and who will run it?
We’re trying with the Egyptian Ministry of Youth & Sports and the Egyptian Olympic Committee to establish the Egyptian Ice Hockey Federation (EIHF) but because of bureaucratic and financial factors it might not be launched sooner than 2018.
How popular is the game of hockey in general and where do see the game on ice fitting in?
Interestingly, Field Hockey like many other things in the world has originated in Ancient Egypt. Egyptology archaeologists have found drawings of Field Hockey in an Ancient Egyptian tomb that is 4,000 years old. And now in modern ages Egypt has one of Africa’s most successful Field Hockey teams. During all our ice hockey training sessions and matches we find ourselves surrounded by dozens of interested spectators. And every month we receive tens of messages from Egyptian youth who express their will to join our ice hockey team. In light of these factors, we assume that Ice Hockey can reach the popularity of Egyptian Field Hockey and maybe it can exceed that to reach the popularity of Egyptian Squash which is one of the most popular sports in Egypt with Football, Handball, Basketball and Volleyball.
How do plan to get more youth interested in playing ice hockey in Egypt?
It’s good that Egyptian youth find this sport extremely interesting for them, hence we attract many of them with just organizing our training sessions and matches in the 11 mall-based ice rinks. At the same time, we visit Egyptian sports academies which have Field Hockey teams. We distribute flyers and brochures about Anubis and ice hockey among those youth of field hockey to attract them to ice hockey. These guys have exceptional hockey skills and they only need us to train them ice skating.
Are there any plans in the future do have some coaching seminars?
We believe coaching seminars will extremely benefit us. On the same track, we invite Russian and German trainers who work in ice rinks in the cities of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada to train our players. We also receive offers of making training camps in Egypt from Danish, Norwegian, Spanish, French, American and Canadian coaches and former players. But because of Anubis’s current lack of consistent funds or a constant sponsor we aren’t able to host such events or cover the accommodation costs of such sportsmen and women.
How do you see the game growing in the next five years?
In the next 5 years we plan to have a national federation, national league, national cup, a minimum of 4 club teams, and an ice hockey arena. We plan to have an enlarged Men National Team with attracting the European and North American players of Egyptian ancestry. We also want to launch a Women National Team. Moreover, we plan to send a membership request to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) which we try to contact since 2012 but they don’t pay attention to our letters at all. We seek to help in establishing 3 important regional ice hockey associations: the African Ice Hockey Association, the Islamic Solidarity Ice Hockey Association which can be part of the famous and well-known Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and its branch the Sports Federation of Islamic Solidarity Games, as well as the Mediterranean Ice Hockey Association. We expect to have hundreds of Egyptian Ice Hockey Players. Furthermore, we seek to enter ice hockey as a sport in the Mediterranean Olympic Games which gathers all the 21 Mediterranean Countries. And we have the same goal for the African Olympic Games, and the Islamic Solidarity Olympic Games. After those 5 years we would be extremely happy if we can make it to the Winter Olympic Games.
Egypt is getting ready play in their fist international tournament at the First African Cup for club teams in July in Morocco. What are your goals for the tournament?
Through the historic initial event of Africa’s 1st Ice Hockey Tournament in Morocco we seek to gain more popularity in Egypt, Africa and the world generally. This can accelerate the pace of the process of establishing the EIHF. We also seek to expand our funds and sponsorship opportunities. The Moroccan and the Algerian teams have more international experiences than us, yet still we represent Egypt, the country which is well-known for being the pioneer of countless fields throughout ages, hence we have to look forward to the cup’s title as well. We would like to deeply thank the Royal Moroccan Ice Hockey Federation which facilitated everything for us to participate in this historic championship.
Are there future plans to apply for IIHF membership?
Applying for the IIHF Full Membership is one of our ultimate goals and we believe it will be a great step for this sport in Egypt. We hope the IIHF pays attention to Africa and to our letters we send to it since 2012. The African Continent now has 11 practicing ice hockey countries with different levels: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast, and Djibouti.
Is Ice Hockey shown on TV?
Yes sometimes Egyptian private and governmental TV channels broadcast segments of NHL matches in the sports news.
Who is your favorite hockey team and player?
My favorite team is the most successful team in our Islamic World which is Kazakhstan whom we support in every world championship. While we hope Egypt gives birth to players like Canada’s great Wayne Douglas Gretzky.