Istanbul district turns street kids into hockey players
ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency
AA PhotoZeytinburnu Municipality has been treading on thin ice recently but all for a good cause.
The municipality’s recent charity campaign has given birth to the unexpected transformation of a group of kids battling severe addictions by training them in ice hockey and forming a team in the Istanbul district.
The ice rink was initially used for a project to promote recycling, awarding skating tickets to citizens who were bringing their waste materials to recycle.
The ice rink, however, because a target for homeless children who began causing trouble around the location and threatening both employees and patrons. Instead of calling in for further security measures the officials took a different turn when they noticed the children’s increasing interest in the game.
“Some of the street kids were dangerous to the rink. Some of them were addicted to drugs,” Zeytinburnu Mayor Murat Aydın told Anatolia news agency. “Then we started to give them free sessions. After seeing their high interest we decided to form an ice hockey team for them.”
The kids began training on the ice until they were turned in professional hockey players, good ones too.
Three years after the team was formed, Zeytinburnu is now on the verge of advancing to the top-flight in the Turkish Ice Hockey League by winning the regional competition.
“We have no losses yet this season,” coach Barış Çoşkun said. “We want to be the Marmara champion first, and then get the Turkish champion title.”
Çoşkun added that he had witnessed all the steps of the players’ transformation, from addicts with social troubles to athletes and teammates.
“They used to challenge each other all the time,” Çoşkun said. “Now they go to the movies together, they hang out together. They now understand what team spirit really means.”
“They are all gentlemen now,” Aydın said. “Their greatest ambition is to become national players.”