Ripon sports fanatic playing out dreams with the Qatar international rugby team

Matt Uffindall scores a try four minutes into his debut for Qatar
Matt Uffindall scores a try four minutes into his debut for Qatar

It’s the stuff of legend, stepping out over the whitewash to play international rugby in front of thousands of adoring supporters.

And for former Ripon Rugby Club player Matt Uffindall, his dreams have come true - under the colours of adopted nation Qatar, where he has been domiciled for four years.

Matt Uffindall received his call up to play inside centre in the Asia Champions League in the group that included Iran and Lebanon.

He got off to an excellent start, scoring a try in the fourth minute of his debut to set his team on to a 35-12 victory over Iran.

“It was a surreal day, I’ve played sport all my life but nothing quite compared to this,” said Uffindall.

“The preparation is second to none, the coaches leave nothing unplanned.

“From the TV cameras and media, to the national anthems, it was all a buzz. When we were warming up you could here the crowd. There was probably nearly a thousand people down supporting, Qatar flags, friends in the crowd, it was something else.

“As a player in any game you want to get your hands on the ball as soon as possible and to cap it all off my first touch after four minutes was a try in the corner! It couldn’t have gone better.”

The next game for Qatar is at home on Friday evening against Lebanon, a team who promise to be a sterner test than Iran.

Qatar is an emerging nation in rugby but has built some of the best facilities for the sport in the world.

“The rugby has been great, we play on some wonderful surfaces and against some great players.” Uffindall said.

“The standard over here is very high, I could tell from the first few sessions.

“We would play week in week out against ex pros and guys who had played to a very high level.”

Before his departure overseas, Uffindall was well known in local sporting circles, playing for Boroughbridge and later Kirkby Malzeard football clubs and in the area representative team.

He also skippered Newby Hall Cricket Club in the Nidderdale League before swapping to the oval ball in 2003 when he started playing rugby at Ripon, where he featured largely in the second and third teams.

After leaving Northallerton School and Sixth Form College where he worked, Uffindall continued playing when he relocated to Doha four years ago.

Again playing mainly for Doha seconds, Ufffindall has not only personally enjoyed his rugby, but as a PE teacher at the Gulf English School, he has contributed to the development of the sport in Qatar.

Uffindall: “Playing rugby here is a different world from the days of playing at Ripon, getting on a plane instead of traipsing up the Dale or down the A1. I still follow the club really closely on the web and try to grab a game if I'm back.

“This season has been great, they seem to have real drive and purpose which is great to see.

"Obviously the legend is Peter Squires, a British and Irish Lion but I hope I have made a few folk proud back at Mallorie Park. The club has another internationally capped player.”