An honour to play for Algerians in bid to raise profile of our great sport
PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 April 2018
When the 2017/18 season ended, I never thought I’d be jetting off to play in a special tournament in Abu Dhabi – for an Algerian team.
But what an experience. That is the only way to sum up my trip to the Gulf to play for Algers Corsaires in the Arab Club Cup Championships last week.
We may have lost all four of our matches against teams from the likes of UAE, Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt, but being part of the competition was really enlightening.
The scores from the matches were 16-3 to Lebanon, 9-4 to eventual winners UAE, 8-7 to Egypt and 8-3 to Tunisia, but playing against players from across the world and at all different levels was fascinating to me in itself.
Coming up against some really talented players, especially in the Lebanon and UAE teams, which were full of Canadians and Russians, with some playing NCAA hockey or having elite league experience around the globe, was an eye-opener.
It was not all about the hockey either. The opportunity of going out there to play – invited by coach Karim Kerbouche – allowed me to see Abu Dhabi, Dubai and even meet the Algerian ambassador on the final day.
Exploring the two places was absolutely amazing and you almost felt as if you were in a different world with the amount of cool things there is to see and do. The buildings were incredible and everything seems to be done to be the best it can be, which makes it an impressive place to see.
Dubai is somewhere I’d like to go back to after spending my day off from action there exploring the likes of Jumeira Beach, Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, the Marina and much more. There was plenty of cultural changes as well.
You can’t just jump on the train anywhere in Dubai – I soon found that one out as I jumped on to head towards the mall, taking a seat, to soon be told I had to move as this was the women’s section!
There was also a very similar set-up when I visited the Sheikh Zayed in Abu Dhabi with both genders having separate entrances before going inside.
Back to the hockey, though, and it was an interesting environment as most of my team spoke French and the first training session on day one, was interesting as the drills were explained in French, before being translated for a couple of us in English.
It was very similar at the dinner table and when the team bus was being arranged.
Even the team talks were conducted in a similar fashion with the lines for each match being shouted out in French by the team captain.
Playing wise was slightly different to what I’m used to, as anyone that knows me will know I like to hit and enjoy the physical side of hocke.y So it was a bit of a shock to me when I was told it was a non-contact competition.
With no hitting, a completely new team and back playing centre – a position I haven’t played in a couple of seasons – I knew it would take some adapting.
The first game was a heavy loss to Lebanon, who were made up of mainly ex-pat Canadians from Montreal and Toronto and showed their class in moving the puck so well. We were outclassed in that match.
The second match was against the eventual Arab Club Cup champions from the UAE, who were bolstered by additions of five to six Russians, some with KHL experience.
We managed to frustrate them and keep the score down to 2-2 at the end of the first period.
The start of the second was also strong from us, but we then gave them too much time and space – and they used it wisely to grab a few quick goals before eventually running out winners.
The third match was the most disappointing one as I felt it was one that we should have won, if we had stayed disciplined but we ended up suffering a narrow 8-7 loss to the Pharoahs of Egypt.
On a bright note I got my first points for the club as I scored two and got two assists, but that means nothing without a win at the final buzzer.
The last match was another one where we took too many penalties and it proved costly with almost all of the Tunisian goals coming on the power play.
It ended 8-3 as I picked up another assist in the match.
It was a real honour to wear the Algerian flag on our shoulders for the week and try to help promote the sport in the Arab countries.
I hope that it can really kick off in all of the countries that took in the competition as they have real enthusiasm for the sport and it’s amazing to see countries actually wanting to make hockey a bigger sport.