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Christmas ice hockey tournament in Minsk to kick off 4 January

Guests and participants of the Christmas ice hockey tournament for the prize of the President of Belarus were flocking to Minsk yesterday gearing up for what is dubbed the unofficial world championship, which is about to start on January 4. 

The tournament generally features veteran ice hockey players.  Some are true record breakers: Edward plans to become the champion of the tournament at the age of 83!

Edward, player of the Germany national ice hockey team:
I'm still in great shape! I can play and beat the young! I will definitely strengthen our team! After all, I do my morning exercises at home!

Kjell-Åke Klockars, assistant manager of Sweden national ice hockey team:
We visit a lot of tournaments, but yours is different in terms of atmosphere in the stands, the warm support of the audience, which is very important for the veterans. Credit to the organizers! 

Alexei Martinyonok, CTV:
All games at this time will be played at Chizhovka Arena. By the way, two years ago, it was the Christmas tournament was the first major ice hockey event and a kind of test before the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

The Christmas tournament is fully consistent with such a status. Germany, Slovakia, Belarus, Russia, Finland, Switzerland and Sweden are always at the top of world rankings. But there is an exception in every rule - in this case this is the team of the United Arab Emirates. 

The temperature difference in Minsk and Abu Dhabi is about forty degrees! But these players keep smiling.

Ibrahim Budebs, player of the national ice hockey team of the United Arab Emirates:
In 2011 I was in Kazakhstan. It was -20ºC there. Since then, I always remember what it means to keep yourself warm.

Ice hockey has recently become quite popular in the Emirates. And, by the way, it was Belarus who imported this sport into the UAE. After the visit of the Belarusian President to the UAE in 2000, the country found out about ice hockey. Then, a Belarusian specialist took charge of the UAE national team and the first successes came.

Ibrahim Budebs:
A year later, the Belarusian came to coach us. He had earlier achieved good results with your juniors. So, he began to train us, and the following year we won a tournament in Malaysia. Everyone was very happy!

Said Almuami, national ice hockey team of the United Arab Emirates:
We understand that we play hockey with the teams of a higher level. Still, I hope that we will be able to win at least one game. Or two!

The Slovakia coach is familiar with the Belarusian ice hockey club Dinamo Minsk. Julius Shupler was head of the club back in 2003. 

Julius Shupler, coach of the national team of Slovakia:
It is very interesting to meet your friends, players, with whom you worked together. We want to show good hockey, we want to please the audience.

Tournament is gaining momentum every year. The show is becoming more and more spectacular because each team really wants to win the trophy. And while the first editions of this competition featured mostly amateurs, now almost every squad consists of players who earlier played at a very high level. Slovakia, for example, has in its squad the former NHL player Miroslav Satan. The team is the record holder in terms of the number of fourth places at the tournament.  

Ladislav Schill, Slovakia:
Some come every year. They will both have a rest and play. Some will walk around the city. Because we really like your city.

Slovakia will face the United Arab Emirates on January 4. On the same day, Belarus play Switzerland in the opener.

Belarus is considered one of the favorites. Over the 11 years of the competition's history Belarusians won the title eight times. Russia won the tournament three times. The winner is traditionally determined on 7 January, which is Orthodox Christmas in Belarus. 

Christmas ice hockey tournament in Minsk to kick off 4 January