Kenya’s only ice hockey team is still trying to earn a bid for the 2022 winter Olympics, being held in Beijing. In a two-day friendly event held in Nairobi last weekend, the team qualified for the finals but fell to team USA in a nail biter.
In eastern Africa’s only ice rink – Kenya’s only ice hockey team, the Ice Lions, took on their first opponents in a home tournament. Team member Hassan Ali Shah says 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 our first game we are hosting here in Kenya,” Shah said.
The team has come of age since the beginning of last year when it was created. Eric Landberg, who represented the European diplomats’ team has this assessment of its 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, I like their team spirit it’s really good,” Landberg said.
There is no ice hockey league in the country so Team Kenya plays challengers made up of Western diplomats. It is these friendly tournaments with foreign teams the Ice Lions use to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which they hope to qualify for. Kenya sees the game as a way to market itself as an ice hockey destination.
South Africa is ranked number one on the continent among the six African countries that play hockey. On the last day of the tournament, Team Kenya fell 10 to nine to Team USA.