Matt's plea to help fund his bid to take on Europe's best
A disabled Lincolnshire man who has broken into the top echelon of his sport within a year of taking it up desperately needs financial help.
Wheelchair rugby star Matt Ball first watched the sport on TV at the 2012 Paralympics.
Now he's preparing to travel to Switzerland with team-mates from the Marauder squad at the crack Leicester Tigers outfit.
But the 31-year-old from Willingham-by-Stow near Gainsborough is appealing for sponsors to support his break into the big time.
One of the rugby union's most successful and best-supported Premier clubs, the Tigers, have 'blooded' hundreds of players who have gone on to top honours in the oval-ball code.
Paraplegic Mr Ball – who has been unable to walk since he suffered a fit at only eight months – has broken into the second string of the Leicester-based side's wheelchair rugby squad within a year of being inspired.
Determined Mr Ball would be happy to fly the Lincolnshire flag at a series of overseas tournaments if a local firm was to pick up the tab for his training schedule.
"I have been in a wheelchair ever since I had the fit at eight months," said Mr Ball, of High Street in the village.
"But it could be worse. While my friends learned to walk, I learned to crawl.
"But I've been pretty lucky in the fact I can still dress myself and drive.
"I attended mainstream school and have tried to lead as normal a life as possible and be as independent as I can.
"I worked until about four years ago when my health became worse and I had to rest for a while.
"This led to depression and quite a dark place for a little while.
"Then I saw the Paralympics and was inspired by wheelchair rugby.
"And I've since joined the East Midlands Marauders Tigers Wheelchair Rugby Club.
"We train hard three times a week – at Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester – with sessions in the gym in between.
"I've played in two tournaments so far in May and July. We have more tournaments coming up, and so far I have been selected to play for the Marauders in Switzerland in October.
"But as I'm on benefits it is very hard affording my fuel to training and membership fees as it is.
"I just need help with the costs of flights, accommodation, a few spare inner tubes, tyres, gloves.
"I love the game, am focused on nothing else, and I genuinely think I have some good potential within the sport."
But the equipment doesn't come cheap. The Matt Hampson Foundation which helps to fund the club provided Mr Ball with a £4,000 specialist rugby wheelchair frame and three wheels costing another £1,200 to start him off.
East Midlands Marauders Tigers' ethos is encapsulated in a statement on their website homepage.
It states: "Our players have overcome physical difficulties and all have their own story of triumph and perseverance.
"Make no mistake, this is a gruelling sport which requires determination, strength and sheer guts.
"And, off-court, our army of coaches and volunteers pour their heart and soul into our sport to make it thrive."
Can you help Mr Ball with sponsorship? Call 07453037202.