I was born in inner city London with Algerian roots. I grew up on a council estate, we never had much money but my mother always did her best to provide for us. I never felt as if I went without. Like most kids growing up in London I had no idea about ice hockey, I never knew it existed, but purely by chance a friend lent me the NHL game on the Sega Megadrive, I became addicted to it. On my twelfth birthday my mum asked me if I wanted to do anything special, I asked to see an ice hockey match. So on my birthday we went to see my local team, Lee Valley Lions play. I was amazed, the speed, the hitting, the fighting, it was like the video game and I loved it.
Shortly after, I began skating and then playing hockey, at the nearest rink to me, a small rink called Sobell Centre. Skates and equipment were expensive so I had to get one piece at a time. After a couple of years I moved up to play more organised hockey with Haringey in the English junior leagues. It was good fun and gave me the opportunity to travel around the country and play in different rinks. Meanwhile I was studying sport and leisure studies at college.
In my early 20’s, after a break from hockey, I began playing again for fun. I had my own online business and it gave me time to train when I liked, it also gave me the time to put more thought into the crazy concept of an Algerian national ice hockey team. Watching the Algerian national football team throughout my life I dreamt of similar national support and excitement for a team in the sport I love. I searched for Algerian names, on google, on hockey player databases such as eurohockey.net and eliteprospects.com, and on French hockey sites, knowing France would hold the most players of Algerian origin. I was amazed to find there were a considerable amount of names, and within weeks enough players to realistically have a team. I began contacting players through various social media sites and directly through their clubs. The response was great, everyone shared my dream of an Algerian ice hockey team and representing their country of origin.
Having gathered enough players, I set about designing the logo and the uniforms, then started creating the website and social media pages, I think myspace first, that’s what was big at the time, Facebook was next and had just started gaining popularity. We started getting some attention, the next step was to get the team together and play. I contacted the most established Arab ice hockey team, UAE, and suggested an idea of an Arab cup. They liked the idea, they brought Kuwait on board. They asked me to bring Morocco in, I’d had some contact with them in the past, providing names of Moroccan players I had found while searching for Algerians. Within a couple of months I was flown out to Abu Dhabi, all expenses paid, to work on the organisation of this tournament. I flew home and immediately put in plans for a warm up camp in London and then for the team to fly out to Abu Dhabi a week later. There were both positives and negatives with the Arab Cup tournament, but overall it was an amazing unforgettable experience, I go in to more detail about the story of the Arab Cup HERE. Scoring the first goal against Morocco was the highlight for me, a real dream come true, a video of the goal can be found on my VIDEO PAGE.
My dream didn’t end at the Arab Cup, following my return to UK I signed for the team I first watched as a 12 year old, Lee Valley Lions. By no means an NHL team, but still a great personal achievement for me, I felt as if I had come full circle. The following season I remained in the English National League signing for Streatham Bruins.
Another great personal achievement for me was the donation I managed to secure from the NHLPA. Through the ‘Goals and Dreams’ scheme, I received $15,000 worth of kids hockey equipment. It’s something I still haven’t used to its full potential, it will however go on to be the beginning of a lasting legacy of hockey inside Algeria, I’m certain of that.
Although we have continued to play exhibition games every so often in France, it’s been incredibly challenging working on the Algerian national programme, the Sports Ministry have never really taken us seriously and have never really supported us, out of frustration it took some what of a back seat for me, I’d put so much time and money in to it already. It was partially my own fault, I should have initially put more time and effort in to dealing with all the endless bureaucracy and red tape of Algeria rather than finding players and organising games. It was naive on my part and a lesson learned for future.
I started to concentrate on my own personal life and career, joining the UK’s largest leisure provider GLL, working at sports centres such as the Copper Box arena which was used in the 2012 Olympics. I’m now a member of management at Streatham sports centre which has London’s only Olympic size ice rink, built on top of the old Streatham rink which I once played in. In my spare time I work on my latest project, putting a hockey club (ice,inline & ball) in Algeria’s capital Algiers. Plans are in their early stages and I’ll update this website as they develop, the idea of this website is to follow my journey in the creation of the club, as well as my continued work on the national team. I will post blogs, vlogs, pictures, videos and whatever else takes my fancy, it will certainly be a unique insight. Dreams do come true, some of mine already have, and I certainly plan on making more come true, Insha’Allah.
To be continued….