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African Ice Hockey Players Get Valuable In-Game Experience in Japan

A group of African ice hockey players visited Japan as part of a tour arranged by the Friendship League, which aims to help develop the sport around the world.



Ice hockey
Kenyans Benjamin Mburu (left) and Faith Sihoho, seen at DyDo Drinco Arena in Tokyo on March 17, 2024, participated in a Friendship League tour of Japan. The organization seeks to grow the sport around the world. (Jim Armstrong)

Read the full story on SportsLook - African Ice Hockey Players Get Valuable In-Game Experience in Japan

A list of popular sports in Africa would inevitably include track and field, rugby, soccer and cricket. Ice hockey wouldn’t even break the top 10, but a dedicated group of players is doing their part to grow the sport on the continent.

Six of those players recently toured Japan to hone their skills and pick up some valuable in-game experience, something that is hard to come by back home.

The visiting players were from Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Kenya.

The tour was organized by the Friendship League with a big assist from the Tokyo Canadians, a long established group of ex-pats in Japan who have brought their love of the game with them to the Japanese capital.

Established in 2016, the Friendship League is a tourism organization that harnesses the power of sport to foster cross-cultural engagement.

"Our goal is to develop hockey in some of the non-traditional hockey countries around the world," said Canadian Scott Howe, the group's representative on the Japan trip.


"Overall, Africa is quite dedicated to hockey but the main barrier, other than the lack of facilities, is the lack of competition."

"For African players to get any type of in-game experience they need an organization like ours," added Howe, no relation to NHL legend Gordie Howe.

The Friendship League has staged hockey events around the world in places as far-flung as Ecuador, Egypt and North Korea.

Now Japan can be added to that list.

ice hockey
Participants in the Friendship League's hockey tour of Japan pose for a photo. (Jim Armstrong)

A Rewarding Experience for Six African Hockey Players

The six African players recently took part in the tour of Japan that featured a pair of games at DyDo Drinco Ice Arena (formerly known as Higashi-Fushimi Ice Arena) on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Among the six were two players from Kenya ― Benjamin Mburu and Faith Sihoho. The others were Harond Litim from Algeria, Mahmoud Ghonaim from Egypt, Charles Balha from Morocco and Nadja Giessen-Hood from South Africa.

For Sihoho, it was her first time out of Africa. 

Mburu gained some notoriety several years ago when he visited Canada in 2018 as part of the Kenyan national team that met and skated with NHL legend Sidney Crosby.


"Hockey is such a fun game," said Mburu, who started playing the sport in 2015. "It's a mental game first of all, and it's a physical game as well and when you step on the ice it's like the world freezes."

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.


Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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