Ice hockey is not a popular sport in Africa but Ihab Ayed, a former finance professional in Paris who quit his job two years ago, is the force behind the team better known as Carthage Eagles. The Tunisian Ice hockey mens’ team recently celebrated their victory by winning the African Ice hockey cup in late July.
“Our ambitions and aim is obviously the construction of an Olympic ice rink. This sport cannot exist in Tunisia if we do not have ice. We can develop the sport in smaller rinks but our purpose is to enable the children who will take over this sport play in a rink that has official dimensions,” he said.
The team has players drawn from France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden and Canada, but some with Tunisian roots. Among them is 26-year-old Nathan Benmessaoud.
“ I do not speak Arabic, I am not a Muslim, I was not educated in Tunisia, but I wanted to look at what is in me and when Ihab contacted me for the initiative of the association, I wanted to join the cause and play for Tunisia.” he said.
Their triumph has attracted the attention of Tunisian sports authorities who are keen on initiating procedures to turn the ice hockey association that is currently registered in France, into a legal entity in the north African country.