31 January 2018

Somalia: Somali Refugee Team Knocked Out of Bandyworld Championship

Somalia was eliminated from the quarter finals of the 2018 Bandy World Championship. The team that consists of Somali refugees based in Sweden is the only non-Nordic country that takes part in this ice-hockey lookalike.

Bandy is the forerunner to hockey and the big sister of ice hockey. But there are notable differences.

The rink in which it is played is much larger than a hockey rink. There are 11 players on a team, while a hockey team consists of only six. Bandy uses a small ball, hockey uses a puck.

The net in bandy is much higher than hockey nets. The rules for bandy are similar to soccer and field hockey. But unlike the spectacular clashes that ice-hockey fans love, Bundy rules allow no full-on body checking.

Championship in China and Russia

Bandy is almost unknown in North America, but in Europe, especially Sweden and Russia, there are professional leagues. There is a world championship for bandy held each year. In this year's 38th Bandy World Championships, two pools are played in China and Russia.

Division A matches are being played in the south-eastern Russian city of Khabarovsk while Division B plays in Harbin, capital of China's Heilongjiang province.

Somali refugees in Sweden

The odd men out in the B-division are the Somali team. They come from a pool of some 3,000 Somali refugees that landed in the Swedish town of Borlänge in the 2010s.

Local NGOs helping to integrate the refugees into Swedish society came up with the plan to introduce them to Bandy, which is very popular in the region.

The Somali team largely consists of Somali football players, none of whom had ever skated on ice before. They took part for the first time in the 2014 bandy World Championships in Russia.

But, in spite of their enthusiasm, the Somali team didn't win a single match this year.

In the B-division's Group A that they shared with the Netherlands, China and Slovakia, they lost all three games, and in the quarter finals they lost with a massive 20-0 against Estonia.

Estonia will meet the Netherlands on 2 February in the semis and the winner of that match will face the winner of the confrontation between China and Japan for the last fight about the World Cup.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will be present at the finals of the A-division, consisting of Sweden, Norway, Khazakstan, Finland, the US, Hungary, Germany and Russia on 3 February, to be played in Khabarovsk.

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