I like sport. I like sport a lot. So when I found myself living in Athens for a few months I was eager to continue playing club sports because they had been such a big part of my life at university. Although it was difficult to join some lesser-known teams here (especially as a woman), I came across Kifissia Imittos Hockey Club in the northern suburbs of Athens, a fun, dedicated and enormously talented group of people who just love playing hockey. I went along to training once a week, so as not to be completely useless for when I get back to play for my local club (though no promises, sorry guys!)
I was fortunate to get a chance to chat with the team’s coach Christos Moschos to get to know a bit more about the team and hockey in glorious Hellas. Christos has been playing hockey for over twenty years, has represented Greece on an international level, and is certainly a very talented player and coach who has taught me an incredible amount about the game in such a short space of time.
Why did you start playing hockey, and what do you love so much about it?
I started watching and playing and watching hockey when I was a child in Egypt. I moved to Greece in 1994 and wanted to continue playing.
I love hockey because it is such a fast paced and clean sport. You don’t get people falling over every two minutes like those footballers. Managing and coaching this club has also given me more responsibilities and has helped me to grow as a person. We rely heavily on volunteers and try to keep costs down for members. For us the sport is not about money but about the love of it.
Scoop: From my experience living in Greece, I have noticed that football and basketball dominate the sports scene. Do you agree?
Christos Moschos: Yes, this is most definitely true. Some people have never even heard about field hockey before. When you mention to someone that you play hockey, they immediately think you are talking about ice hockey or even polo!
Scoop: It’s crazy! How did hockey get to Greece, then?
Christos Moschos: There was a guy who came over from England in the 1980s to teach in Anavryta College and introduced the sport there. The three buildings of the college were called ‘Main’, ‘Athenians’ and ‘Imittos’ (the last one because of the view of Imittos mountain from the building). The Imittos team evolved into our current club. Three teams were named after these buildings. It remained at this local level for some time, but then the game wasn’t played for about two decades.
There was a little more momentum in the mid 1990s because Greece had bid for the Olympics in 1996, and it was the one hundred year anniversary of the modern Olympic Games. Obviously, field hockey was a participating sport so we had to think about getting a national team. However, we didn’t win with our bid so nothing really came of that, but by now there are men’s and women’s national teams which have participated in European championships.
Although the sport is a little more well-known now, we have a long way to go in terms of awareness, resources and funding.
Scoop: Can you tell me a little more about the history Kifissia Imittos HC?
Christos Moschos:The club was officially set up in 1990 by Dimitris Kavoras and after his death in 2008, it was taken over by myself, Diantis Christos and Sozon Palestros.
Before 2010 there was only a men’s team, and we won nine out of the fourteen Greek championships between 2000 and 2014. Our women’s team was set up in 2010; they won the Greek championship in their first year (!) and then won it again in 2014. With the youth players, it was difficult to keep them coming because of the lack of other youth teams, so we solved this problem by creating separate teams within the club to play against each other. This season, we have four separate teams – black, white, orange and red.
Scoop: How are you trying to make the sport more well-known in Greece?
Christos Moschos:We’ve had a big recruiting push in the last few years by advertising with posters and appearing in the local newspapers with updates on how the club is getting on. On October the 28th, a national holiday in Greece, we joined in a march through the streets to try and raise awareness. At the moment, the only thing we can do it try and make our club well known on a local level. In the last year alone, we have had twenty new female recruits, and thirty new youth players.
We sent six of our members on a coaching course to Northern Greece earlier this month which was led by a coach from England and another from Holland. We had a great time and learned so much! It’s important for our development that we have engagement with leading coaches who are able to give us new perspective and ideas.
Scoop: What are your ambitions for the rest of the season?
Christos Moschos: Playing in the Eurohockey championship 2015 is one of our main priorities, with both the men and women’s teams participating. However, we are also looking for further challenges outside of Greece, for a team looking to host us in Europe. This would be an amazing opportunity, helping us to develop by playing new teams and engaging with a different style of hockey. One of the biggest obstacles faced by the club is the fact that it is extremely difficult to find a full-sized 11-a-side hockey pitch here in Greece. When we are able to get access to a proper pitch, we will be able to invite clubs to Greece, but until then we have to rely on going elsewhere.
Before heading off to our two hour training session I asked Christos if they were going to win the league this year. His answer? A simple ‘of course.’ Whatever the future holds for field hockey in Greece, I get the feeling that Kifissia Imittos HC are going to be around for a while.
Best of luck for the rest of the season!
You can find Kifissia Imittos Hockey Club on facebook for more information: https://www.facebook.com/FieldHockeyKifisias
Written by Heini Davies