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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

When Saturday Comes, Expats Score for Charity

For MTFrom left, Keane, Dudley, Yelena Orochko of Dogs as Assistants, and Rees, showing the evening's donation check.
Every Saturday this summer, a couple hundred expatriates descend on the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, or MGIMO, for a few hours of exercise, beer and shashlik.

It's not premier league stuff, but the Expats' Over 30 Soccer League has rapidly become an expat institution since its founding three years ago by Britons Darren Keane and Nick Rees, and now brings together players from some 40 nations.

Apart from the Saturday matches, the league's key fixture is its Midsummer Night Ball, which mixes the sort of food and drink that professional players would normally avoid and a large commitment to charity.

On Saturday, about 300 revelers attended this year's ball at the Renaissance Hotel, which also served as a charity fundraiser for the Diema's Dream foundation for disabled orphans and the charity Dogs as Assistants for Disabled People.

A total of $18,000 was raised during the evening through a combination of donations, a lottery and the auction of various prizes donated by sponsors.

Lottery prizes included an array of hotel brunches and weekend stays at the Penta hotel and the Swissotel Krasniye Kholmi, expat favorites such as dinner at Night Flight and Scandinavia, a year's supply of English sausages from Sausages.ru, a signed portrait of Joanna Lumley and a cash prize of $1,000 given by Millionaire Fair.

A jersey signed by the players of CSKA's UEFA Cup-winning team was one of the star features in the auction, along with another signed by players from London club Arsenal. Other lots were two flights donated by Lufthansa and a suit by Imperial Tailoring Co. Delta Credit donated $2,000 and Kof Palitra gave $1,000 as cash donations.

Diema's Dream provides financial, medical and educational support for disabled Russian orphans.

The money will go toward establishing Village for Life, a project that will allow children who have been cared for by the foundation's Charity House program to continue receiving care as adults. The program will ensure that orphans who would normally be forced to go into adult homes for the disabled will be able to have a better quality of life staying in houses with live-in caretakers. The foundation is trying to raise $80,000 to buy a former Soviet-era pioneer camp in the Vladimir region.

Part of the Village for Life project will to pair disabled people with trained dogs assist in doing things such as turning book pages and fetching clothes. Mary Dudley, who founded Diema's Dream, tells the story of how one trained dog, Olly, visited Charity House and Ani, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, lifted her arms to welcome her.

"Her carer said she had not done that for years," Dudley said.

Rees acted as emcee for the ball, handing out streams of awards for the winter indoor season as well as introducing the after-dinner speaker, fellow Welshman Howard Marks. Otherwise known as "Mr. Nice," the Oxford graduate served seven years in a U.S. jail for running the world's biggest cannabis smuggling ring. Marks' talk on his life and his campaign to legalize cannabis, which includes lighting up in British police stations, tickled many diners' fancies.

Perhaps luckily, he avoided lighting up a spliff on stage in Moscow, as is his wont when he speaks in other parts of the world.

During this year's winter indoor season, played at one of only two full-size indoor pitches in Russia, the winner was once again the Intermark Flagons, who finished ahead of the Cloggs & Casinos, Blues Brothers, Antal International, Expo Solutions and the British International School's team BIS Kits.

As champions, the Flagons took a number of awards, including Best Midfield Player, which went to Conrado Lopez, and Player of the Year, won by Freek Broekman.

Oliver Burlotte of BIS Kits was awarded the prize for Goal of the Year. "He looked up, saw the goalie off his line by two inches and chipped him from 87 yards," Keane said in his description, exaggerating less than he usually does.

Runners-up the Cloggs also took their fair share of awards, including Captain of the Year and Players' Player of the Year, which went to goalkeeper Greg Curtis, and the Golden Boot award, won by David Effington. Effington also took the Managers' Player of the Year award.

The remainder of the awards were spread around the rest of the teams. Antal International's Patrick Henry won Manager of the Year award, and Antal's Alfonso Matta was Most Improved Player of the Year.

Expats over 30 years old wishing to join the league can e-mail Nick Rees at nick@expat-league.com.

For more information about the Diema's Dream foundation, go to www.diemasdream.com. Dogs as Assistants for Disabled People has a web site at www.guidedogs.ru.