SARAJEVO. Tournament director Kimmo Leinonen looks around Skenderija, the arena for the men’s 3B division World Cup. Leijonat played in the same hall in the 1984 Winter Olympics.
– The hall is “museumized” in the sense that nothing has been done to it. The roof seems to still be leaking from the same place as it was then (1984), Leinonen describes.
The missing ceiling panels, the brown color scheme of the stand, the brick floor and the cigarette smoke wafting down the corridor forcefully take you back in time almost 40 years. At that time, the Soviet Union won the Olympic gold in almost show style.
This time Bosnia-Herzegovina was dominated by Kyrgyzstan, which was once a part of the Soviet Union. It won all five of its matches between February and March and scored at least 10 goals in each of them. In that order, Singapore, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Malaysia, Iran and Hong Kong got to experience their share of paint manufacturing.
1. Kyrgyzstan 15 p
2. Bosnia-Herzegovina 11 p
3. Hong Kong 9 p.m
4. Singapore 7 p
5. Iran 3 p
6. Malaysia 0 p
Many of Kyrgyzstan’s 76 goals were initially the clear winner of the assist exchange, a 22-year-old striker who also played in Finland Islambek Abdyraev. Enthusiastic about winter sports at a young age, Abdyraev is one of the few Kyrgyz players playing in Europe.
– Ice hockey is not as popular in Kyrgyzstan as I would like it to be, so I wanted to move in a more professional direction.
The first step was the IIHF Vierumäki summer camp in 2015. There, at the age of 14, he got to play with players who later debuted in the NHL Grigori Denisenko and Benoit-Olivier Groulx against.
From there, his path led to Kazakhstan and Austria and finally to Sweden in 2018. However, two years later, the corona pandemic forced him to return to his home country.
– I couldn’t get back to Sweden, so I headed to Finland, where I found a program where I could combine playing and studying.
That program was found in Kisakallio in Lohja for the 2021–22 season, so Abdyraev ended up in western Uusimaa to play in the under-22 league and the men’s II division in HAKI’s team. He mainly has only positive things to say about Finland.
– I loved my teammates, they were great to me. Other people also treated us like their own. We had a great time. Ice hockey was also of a good standard. I learned a lot during that year and grew as a person.
Of course, not everything was like at home or in Sweden.
– The weather caused the most surprise. That winter it was crazy because there was so much snow. Sometimes I couldn’t get to practice because our car was completely frozen and we couldn’t get out of the apartment due to the amount of snow.
Abdyraev, who currently plays in Sweden’s 4th league in the Stockholm area, is very determined about his future.
– I want to progress as far as possible as a professional player. I don’t know where the road will lead me. I would like to develop to SHL or SM league level, but playing in Allsvenskan or Mestis would also be great.
Kyrgyzstan was in every way a completely superior team for the 7th highest league level of the World Cup program. The differences in level were big, and some evenly matched matches were torn apart by poor goalkeeping. It was telling that 10 hits were made in the game with the fewest goals.
A few world records were also set in the tournament. of Hong Kong From Emerson Keung became the oldest goalkeeper in World Cup history at the age of 50. The titles of the oldest player and the oldest goal scorer were changed to the defender representing Bosnia-Herzegovina To Anthony London. London, who has lived in Sarajevo for decades and works in the legal field, can still play at the age of 51, despite a slightly heavy leg.
The gentlemen in question were facing each other in the winning shot competition, so never before has the combined age of the shooter and the goalkeeper been more than 100 years in the prestigious competition.
Many of the competition teams were almost new at the World Cup level. Iran, Singapore and Malaysia will not debut until spring 2022. Malaysia was supposed to participate in the games in 2020 and Singapore in 2021, but the corona pandemic canceled all lower division tournaments at that time.
Finland’s influence in the hockey world is extensive and it also extends to Malaysia. The 26-year-old captain of the national team has been able to enjoy it Arie Versluiswhose brother Dean also plays in the national team. Katra is complemented by three sisters who play in the women’s national team.
– There are many Finns in Malaysia. They play in our different leagues and it’s great that we get to learn from them. The Finns play hard, but they are great teammates.
The “Tiigers” have been playing official national matches since 2007. Malaysian players have long traveled to the IIHF summer camp in Vierumäki to develop their skills.
– I was in Vierumäki when I was 15 years old. There are players from all over the world. It was fun and hard. I actually got my first concussion there. I wasn’t used to the contact and I was knocked out there.
The physical way of playing does not really describe Malaysia’s inexperienced team, which did not have high expectations for the tournament.
– We have a lot of young players, for some of whom these were the first matches where they can tackle. There is no tackling in the Malaysian leagues, so they are trying to adapt to the game. Some of them clearly seemed to be afraid of tackles.
Malaysia lost its opening match to Iran 4–14 and the very next day the 43-year-old head coach Peng Tan pulled an ace up his sleeve. The man put on the equipment and was on the back lines to play against the beloved local opponent Singapore. Singapore was not startled by this and the final result was a clear 0–10.
Some kind of record must be Malaysia’s second goalkeeper Tze Tan’s statistics line. Playing time in two matches 10.52, 4 saves, 10 goals conceded and save percentage 28.57. Malaysia ended up with no points in the tournament with a sad goal difference of 6–77.
Captain Versluis hopes to achieve that responsibility in his working life as well. He graduated as a pilot three years ago, but just like in Sarajevo, things have also been very turbulent in the aviation industry.
– The situation is difficult for me. I still try to stay optimistic. I graduated at a very bad time, just three days before my country went into lockdown. This year we are finally starting to open up and I hope it will open up opportunities for me as well.
The absolute skill level of the teams is naturally far from the top of the world. Positioning, passing accuracy and especially the goalkeeper game of some countries need additional practice.
The gratifying thing is that the speed of play and skating and shooting skills have developed tremendously even at this level over the course of 10 years.
The fact that the new president says a lot about the IIHF’s attitude to the sub-divisions Luc Tardif was present in Kyrgyzstan last year at the 4th division World Championships and now in Sarajevo.
This kind of dedication also from the IIHF level confirms tournament director Leinonen’s view of why lower level competitions are worth watching.
– There is perhaps the greatest passion and fire for the sport here than anywhere else. They are very proud to have made it here.