The UEFA Regions' Cup drew a footballing celebrity to sleepy Ofir on Wednesday, with Portugal coach Paulo Bento taking time to encourage the Braga players and tell UEFA.com about the importance of amateur football.
The 42-year-old coach, capped 35 times as a defensive midfielder for his country, had heads turning as he came to the Axis Hotel in Ofir, and he was adamant that Europe's top amateur tournament had a vital role to play in helping unearth the wealth of talent that goes under the radar of professional clubs.
"It's at amateur level that a player frequently starts his career and from time to time it is there that you manage to find a future star of the game," he told UEFA.com. "Football associations have an important role in developing the sport, and the Regions' Cup is a competition which should be followed and nurtured."
Bento, who has overseen three UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying wins since replacing Carlos Queiroz as Portugal coach, started his career at a modest club, Clube Oriental de Lisboa − like so many of the players at the finals − and went on to represent SL Benfica, Real Oviedo and Sporting Clube de Portugal, where he won a league and cup double in 2002.
As he prepared to meet the Braga team and hold talks with their coach, Dito, he underlined that the non-professional ranks remained a huge, and largely untapped source, of footballing talent.
"The truth is that, with more patience and a different mindset, there could be a way to make more of amateur football and to allow amateur players to turn professional," he said. "However, urgency seems to be the key word in football nowadays, so clubs are not willing to take a gamble and hire players like these. Maybe we are still not doing everything we should to protect what is ours."
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