Sharjah Wanderers will celebrate a mammoth milestone this weekend as the club hosts a festival of rugby to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
When a group of Halcrow and Tarmac engineers living in Sharjah when construction began on Sharjah Port and Sharjah Sewage Works in 1976, little did they know they were laying the foundations for a rugby club that would still exist nearly half a century later.
The engineers played for Dubai Exiles at the time but, concerned with the travelling distance, approached then Sharjah ruler, His Highness Sheikh Sultan, to ask if he would be willing to allocate land for a rugby pitch.
The Sheikh was very obliging and bestowed a plot of land that was flat enough for a pitch but could only be reached by 4×4 vehicles.
With the help of Tarmac providing materials and equipment and everyone pitching in, a small cub house was built and Sharjah Wanderers Sports Club was born.
“I can’t speak for other clubs, but Sharjah has always been a place that created everlasting friendships, from the guys who used to play in the 1980s that still meet up every summer to the more recent players,” said club chairman Shane Breen, who grew up in Sharjah.
“For a lot of people the Wanderers has given them life-time memories, some they wish they could forget, but mostly good ones.
“From a personal perspective, I grew up in Sharjah playing for the Wanderers and am one of many second generation players, which is something we’re very proud of.”
Although Breen revealed the exact birthday of the club changes depending on who you talk to, 1977 is the year it all came together. And a lot of players both old and new will descend on the clubhouse for a special day of celebration tomorrow.
Two rugby matches will be played, including the Sharjah Nomads v the current senior men’s team. A memorial game follows for Harry Adamson, a club legend who died earlier this year.
“This year is a big year for the Wanderers and while rugby is where it began, all the sports sections are flourishing which is fantastic to see,” added Breen.
“Friday will be a celebration of all the club’s sports sections, with exhibition games from football, Gaelic football and rugby. The first rugby game will be Sharjah Nomads v the current men’s team.
“The Nomads side is made up of guys who are still in the UAE but are either retired or now play for other clubs. After this there’ll be a memorial game for Harry Adamson.”
Although UAE rugby clubs have changed in various guises throughout their existence, Wanderers are lucky to have always had their current clubhouse to call home.
And Breen revealed some players from the very first days will be back in the clubhouse for tomorrow’s festivities.
“For us as the rugby club, we’ve made a big effort to get as many ex-players back as possible and it’s been amazing to see so many former players from as far back as the 70’s making to trip back to Sharjah for the weekend,” he said.
“Quite a few of these guys haven’t been back to the club since they left up 30 years ago so it’s going to be a great reunion. Whilst all our oldest rivals have been forced to more grounds over the years, we’ve been extremely fortunate to have the same ground since the beginning.
“The Wanderers may have changed a lot over the last 40 years but it’ll still feel the same to those guys returning.
“We’ve also got a table of former Dubai Exiles players coming down to show their support and meet some old friends, three of whom used to be my teachers.”
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