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Speranza 22 players raise Dh21,000 for charity

Speranza 22 raised funds for the Mike Ballard Foundation and Try Rugby.

Two UAE-based rugby charities have benefitted from a Dh21,000 donation from a rugby team set up in memory of a former team-mate.

Speranza 22, featuring players who have previously played for Abu Dhabi Harlequins, have featured at the Dubai Rugby Sevens for the last three years.

They first took part in 2013, 10 months after former Quins youth prospect Marco Speranza died in a plane crash in his native Argentina.

The team, named after Marco and his birth date, have since raised money for worthy rugby causes and continued that earlier this month by presenting two cheques to the Mike Ballard Foundation and Try Rugby.

Ballard, a former Quin himself, was forced to give up the game playing for Quins against Jebel Ali Dragons in the 2014 West Asia Champion Club final.

He recently returned to Abu Dhabi to live and was on hand at Zayed Sports City on May 2 to receive a cheque for Dh11,000.

Speranza and Quins assistant coach Rory Greene said: “We were delighted to enter the Dubai Sevens for a third year in a row in 2015. This year was even more special as we were able to support not only the MBF but also Try Rugby.

“Mike continues to inspire us all with his physical and mental strength to overcome his horrific injury and we are all delighted to see him back in Abu Dhabi working and living an independent life.

“Try Rugby has inspired us all. To see the young players, many with severe learning or physical disabilities, find an environment where they feel part of a team and a club is an exceptional achievement.

“We are delighted that S22 were able to help. Marco would be exceptionally proud that S22 are supporting these two great causes.”

The Mike Ballard Foundation continues to help the American in his rehabilitation but is now also branching out to help others.

“Seeing the way Speranza 22 came together to support Marco’s family really helped me get through the grind of my rehab and physical therapy,” said Ballard.

“Now that I’m back on my feet, hopefully we can keep moving forward and help other people on their road to recovery.”

Try Rugby was set up by members of Quins to provide rugby to children with disabilities.

“Thank you to all at Speranza 22 for your support for Try Rugby. Your support will be the kick start our Abu Dhabi Harlequins Try Group needs to get this amazing cause reaching all the children it needs to,” said Try Rugby founding member Sema Faulkner, who collected a Dh10,000 cheque from Speranza.

“Our kids range from those with special needs, disabilities and just those who cannot cope with a competitive rugby environment.”

Nine months after the 20-year-old Speranza’s death, his friends got to the semi-finals of the International Open Men’s competition in Dubai. In 2014 they made the final, losing narrowly to Wyvern Harlequins who again put paid to their chances of success last year, beating them in the Trophy quarter-finals.

Greene paid tribute to the team’s sponsors, including Gulf Marine Services (GMS) and Etihad Towers.

Duncan Anderson, CEO GMS, said: “GMS continues to support S22 to promote rugby and all the values that are associated to the sport for young people.”

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