Islington-born Karim Kerbouche is fulfilling a dream of bringing ice hockey to his native Algeria as he is set to jet off to play in the first-ever Arab Cup in Abu Dhabi, writes Jacob Ranson.
The 35-year-old, who is head of Hockey Algeria and led the country’s first-ever representative team to a creditable third-place finish in the inaugural African Club Cup in 2016, is looking to keep progressing the nation in his beloved sport.
Kerbouche will be taking his Algerian team (Algiers Corsaires) to compete in the Arab Cup which also features Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE, and is due to be televised on Abu Dhabi sports channel early next month.
“It’s a nice place to go, I lived there for a little while, and I’m excited to be going back there,” Kerbouche said.
“This will be the first time I’m taking my club out there and it should be fun, there is a good amount of teams and the competition should be good, I’m expecting some decent players to be at the tournament.
“Especially from Lebanon their team should be packed full of Canadian juniors with Lebanese descent so it should be a decent level of hockey and it will be a good chance to publicise it in the international media.”
Kerbouche, who attended Central Foundation School in Bow, managed to obtain funding for his team to represent Algeria and scored their first-ever goal, against Morocco in 2008.
He went on to play as a forward for Lee Valley Lions and Streatham Redskins in the English National Ice Hockey League – as well as working for leisure provider GLL at Streatham ice rink.
At that same time, Kerbouche continued his determined efforts to spread the growth of the sport in his parents’ homeland – quite a challenge with only one permanent ice rink and minimal government backing.
And he is now hoping the tournament will be a success, adding: “I’m hoping for it to be an annual thing or a semi-annual thing so it happens every couple of years. There’s a lot of expenses involved, but it’s definitely something I’d like to continue.”
Kerbouche is also keen to keep building up the sport, saying: “There is an appetite for it, it’s just the logistics of getting equipment and coaches out there as I can only be out there for a certain amount of time a year.”