Abu Dhabi Storms bound for flooded Bangkok

UAE side fly to Thailand capital despite 'a lot of concerns' to participate in Smiles Bangkok Ice Hockey Classic, seen as a warm-up event ahead of Challenge Cup of Asia.

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ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Storms have travelled to Thailand to compete in an international tournament despite concerns arising following the country's worst floods in decades.

The participation of the team in the Smiles Bangkok Ice Hockey Classic had been in jeopardy after the city was wrecked by flash floods, but the team flew out on Sunday night albeit with "a lot of concerns".

"There was a lot of doubt on our travel plans with news of the flood waters reaching the city but the club management has decided to go ahead with the original plans," Ibrahim Bu Debs, the UAE international defender, said.

"We are going into the unknown. The club management is in touch with the organisers, but we can only see the real situation when we reach our destination. We are travelling with a lot of concerns."

The 17th staging of the competition, which will start tomorrow and end on Saturday, has drawn teams from places such as Vancouver, Taipei, Peking, Bangkok and Singapore.

The tournament represents the UAE team's first international event under the stewardship of Yuri Faikov, the Belarusian coach who signed a two-year contract in September.

"We have worked under him before and it is a continuation of the work ethics under him," Bu Debs said of Faikov, who had previously coached the national team for six years. The Storms warmed up for the event with Emirates Hockey League victories over the Abu Dhabi Scorpions, 4-1, and the Al Ain Vipers, 6-5, and spent a week fine-tuning their preparations in Abu Dhabi.

The tournament is preparation for the Challenge Cup of Asia in India in March. "The preparations have gone well with a couple of friendlies on the lead up to the Bangkok event," Faikov said.

"We have had a good start to the season but we need to play consistently well throughout the season. This squad mainly comprises of the UAE national team players and part of my job would be to prepare them for the national team's upcoming tournaments."

Joining the Storms on the tour is Al Ain Theebs who will take part in the second-tier Asian Open.

UAE sides have clinched the the Bangkok event three years in a row with the Gulf Scorpions winning it in 2006 and 2008 and the national team in 2007.

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and Amith Passela