We had the great pleasure of interviewing Karim Kerbouche who had a major impact in starting the Algerian Ice Hockey Association.
Q. You are widely considered starting the Algeria Ice Hockey Association can you tell us a little more about yourself?
A. I’m born in London, UK, with Algerian background. I started playing ice hockey in London at around aged 13, playing junior and then senior in the English national league. I’ve also studied sports management in college.
Q. What is the future of ice hockey in Algeria?
A. Progress is slow unfortunately, it’s not easy to introduce a new sport to Algeria, the problem is mainly with the government, they’re slightly behind the times when it comes to supporting new sports. We do however have quite a lot of public support, almost 100,000 likes on our facebook page, and with the future projects with Morocco and Tunisia I feel Algerian hockey has a bright future.
Q. There is no ice rinks in Algeria, are there any future plans in build one?
A. There is currently one ice rink in Algeria which opened this year, it’s small, I believe 300 metres squared, in Algeria’s 2nd city Oran.
There is talk of full size rinks but nothing concrete, with the growing wealth in Algeria and people seeking more leisure activities I very much expect to see a full size ice rink in the next couple of years.
Q. If and when there is an ice rink in the country do you think a league can be form?
A. There will be a league, after discussion with Morocco and Tunisia, and advice from the IIHF, the aim will be to have a cross country North African league, I feel it’s very important for us to develop both our senior and junior hockey together, I think it’s the only way you’ll see any of us compete in a world championship one day.
Q. Ice hockey is growing in Africa countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt have started to play the game and South Africa have been playing for a long time is there an African Cup in the future?
A. I think so, we all want it, we even discussed it a couple of weeks ago, the problem has always been the funding, it’s very expensive for us and Morocco and Tunisia to get to South Africa, ideally we’d need a big sponsor or IIHF assistance. Expect to see a North African ‘Maghreb cup’ in the near future though.
Q. Can you please tell us what is the Maghreb Cup?
A. The Maghreb Cup will be a tournament involving the three North African countries of the Maghreb region, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. We hope to have the first one in 2015.
Q. Algeria has a very small synthetic ice rinks that are suitable for children to learn the basics. Have you or anyone else started children hockey programs in the country?
A. We haven’t yet and that’s something that really disappoints me. For me this is biggest priority now.
Q. Does the Algeria Ice Hockey Asociation have plans to become IIHF member in the near futue?
A. Definitely, hopefully we can apply in 2015
Q. Outside from yourself who are the movers and shakers of Algerian ice hockey?
A. Our captain Harond Litim, well established in French hockey, was a big hit on a French comedian, remi gaillard, prank video. He has his finger in all sorts of pies, MMA, watersports, rap videos. He also puts a lot of work into Algerian hockey.
We have Rouen junior elite coach Nordine Mahdidi, he played with us initially and will now be working on coaching with us.
Q. Many Algerian players play aboard, what is the level of play for Algerian players and who would you say is the best player today?
A. We have some very good players, mostly in France.Benchabane who plays in ligue Magnus is probably the top player,Chougui who just signed for asniere is a very good player, our captain Litim of course, and two former ligue Magnus players Fahasand Sadani. There’s a few young guys playing junior in France and Canada who we hope to come through.
Q. Algerian National Team have not played for sometime now are there and plans to play any games in 2014-15?
A. There will be games in 2015, I’m pretty confident the North African tournament will happen, I’d like to add a couple more fixtures on top as well.
Q.You scored the first ever goal for the Algerian national team during the 2008 Arab Cup against Morocco, what was the feeling like?
A. It was a dream come true for me, firstly to play for Algeria then to actually score, it was amazing, still the highlight in my hockey life.
Q. What is your favorite NHL team?
A. I don’t follow the NHL much anymore, when I was a kid I always liked Anaheim, now I just like to watch the teams who play a tough physical style.
Q. Who is your favorite player past or present?
A. When I was younger I liked Paul Kariya, I also liked the enforcers. I follow them more than the skilled guys. These days, I like how Chicago guys Kane and Toews play, I like Kadri. It’s good to see an Arab in the NHL, and I guess St. Louis enforcer Reeves.
Q. What is the one thing about hockey that you like the best?
A. I like the physical side of ice hockey. I’m a big football (soccer) fan but I always felt it was missing the physical side of things. I think hockey has a good mix of skill and toughness.
Thank You for you time and we wish you the best of luck going forward.
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