Although Egypt does not have an official federation or a national team, the Pharaohs announced this week the roster for the 2020 Kuwait Arab Club Ice Hockey Championship, reports Inas Mazhar.
The tournament will be held in Kuwait City in Kuwait from 1 to 8 February. “We are very grateful to our hosts for inviting us to this great tournament. We are excited to see how much the sport has progressed around the Arab world and Egypt,” Yasser Ahmed, tournament manager and director of hockey operations for Egypt ice hockey, said.
The Pharaohs roster includes 13 Egyptian players, led by Sameh Ramadan (New York) and Ayman Abdullah (Cairo) who will serve as team captains.
“We really like our roster. This is the best Egyptian ice hockey club team we have ever put together,” said co-captain Ramadan. “It’s a group that brings versatility and experience and includes players who have a lot of passion about representing our country.”
Egypt will be represented by Egyptians from the US, Canada and Egypt. Additionally, they will be joined by players from Europe to round out the roster.
The Pharaohs will play their opener on 2 February against the United Arab Emirates’ Theebs Club. In addition to the host nation Kuwait and Egypt, the tournament includes clubs from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon and the UAE. Sports lovers can watch the tournament on the Kuwaiti Sports Channel.
“It’s exciting to see local Egyptians coming together with Egyptian expats living in the US, Canada and other nations to participate in such an important regional sports event,” Nancy Hadi, CEO of IBIS, the PR consulting company for Egypt Ice Hockey Pharaohs, said.
“I believe that in the near future, the roster will have the names of many female players as well. Considering that football, another contact sport, is one of the most popular sports in Egypt and the region, it is not unusual to see how popular ice hockey has become among Egyptians in Egypt and abroad,” Hadi said.
Only five countries have established ice hockey programmes in Africa. Of these, only three are members of the International Ice Hockey Federation IIHF (South Africa, Algeria and Morocco). Egypt is aiming to become the fourth nation to officially join the sport in the continent.
There have been attempts to play the sport in Egypt. In 2002, a few local players began playing ice hockey at the Maadi Family Land ice rink, the sport’s unofficial headquarters. Without nets and barely any equipment, these players introduced Cairo to live hockey for the first time. Quickly word spread and the sport grew. Club teams were founded, a regular time slot for the games was created and a tournament league formed. Currently, there are more than 100 ice hockey players in Egypt.
After years of preparation, Egypt was formally invited to the first African Ice Hockey Cup of Champions in February 2016. The countries participating were Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and the host country Morocco. Six months later, Cairo Anubis played against International Anubis in an exhibition match. Players and Egyptian expats from the US and Canada played against the Egyptian local team. The match was held at the sister rink in Genena Mall. Over 200 spectators watched the 1 ½ hour match, the most competitive ice hockey match ever played in Egypt.
In October 2016 the Egypt ice hockey club entered the International Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada. The Hall of Fame museum is the most popular hockey museum in the world with over 300,000 visitors annually. Egypt thus became represented with the best in history. In November 2016 four members of the Anubis team including two board members visited the Hall of Fame as guests for the showcase unveiling.
In September 2017, the Pharaohs made history by winning Egypt’s first international ice hockey match versus Morocco Club (B) 3-2 in Montreal, Canada. It was the first time Egyptian players from Egypt, the US and Canada played together.
In April 2018, the Pharaohs participated in the first Arab Club Cup in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Teams included clubs from Lebanon, the UAE, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. The Pharaohs won their first international tournament match, against the Corsairs Club from Algeria, 8-7.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.