In only a brief time period, Kennedy Kandjii is on a mission to make Ice stock sport, a sport that was previously perceived as predominantly white sport into a multi-colour powerhouse.
After only two years involved in the sport, Kandjii has risen to become one of the most prominent players in the country, his highest point coming when he became the only African junior to represent Africa at the World Championships held in Austria last year.
“It was the proudest moment of my career so far. It was an unbelievable feeling, one which I will always cherish for the rest of my life,” says Kandjii. There were only two African countries at the Championships, Namibia and Kenya, but Namibia had the only junior representative.
Out of 20 countries, Kandjii came 18th and being his first ever international tournament, he says he was pleased only to not come last.
The 23 year old who hails from Keetmashoop, says he first noticed the sport after attending the Goethe Centre in Windhoek where he came for his studies.
“I was studying German and working briefly at the Goethe Centre in 2013. The library director, Mr. Detlef Pfeifer, who also happens to be the president of Ice Stock Sport Association of Namibia introduced me to the sport. I would follow him to games and in time I got interested and paid the fee and became a member,” he says.
He reveals that one the key factors that lured him to Ice Stock was the opportunities to travel abroad for games. During the time that he joined up, Namibia were preparing to participate at the World Championships.
“There were mostly white guys, most of them German, who were showing up at games when I joined the sport. The opportunities to play overseas, and be able to play with ice in Europe’s winter was very attractive,” he says.
He says now, the perception that ice stock sport is mainly for whites is changing. “Sport is for all. The fact that I was the only junior to represent Africa at international level helped. When I tell people that, it changes the perception, which means black people will also be interested to pick up the sport,” he says.
Ice stock sport, also known as Bavarian Curling is a winter sport where competitors slide ice stocks over an ice surface, aiming for a target (called the Daube) or to cover the longest distance. Points are gained for being closest to the Daube after all the players have thrown their stock. The sport is mainly practiced in southern Germany and Austria and has gained prominence in Namibia due to the German presence in the country.
Because Namibia and indeed most of Africa do not have the winters that produce snow and ice, locally ice stock sport is played on ceramic tiles, plastic tiles and soft interlocks.
Kandjii has not rested on his laurels, and has established an ice stock sport team in Keetmashoop called Unam Southern Campus Ice Stock Club in order to advance the sport outside of Windhoek. The sport has been thriving with more than 30 players in that region.
“We host a weekly cup on Saturdays, but we have stocks outside for those who want to practice. Practice is every day,” he says.
Despite his successes, he says there are some challenges. Mainly, the equipment is expensive and hard to come by. As they are not sold in Namibia, players have to order them from South Africa and Europe.
He also says there is still a challenge to attract players. “Most of our people only have time for soccer so after one session, many don’t come back again, which is sad,” he says.
After his team participated in the Cazadores Icestock Tournement which took place on Friday (15 May), Kandjii is looking forward to the African Cup to be held in Kenya in September this year.
After participating as a junior, this will be his first chance to compete with the senior team at an international and continental level.
In 2016, he will again compete at the World Championships which will be held in Italy.
Away from ice stock, Kandjii is an active member of Namibia National Students Organisation (NANSO) and takes part in community youth projects such as community gardening. “I also like to hang out with friends,” he quips.