Keleti Régió's András Fodor, a fireman by trade, is excited by the opportunity facing his team at the UEFA Regions' Cup finals, which start on Saturday in Veneto, Italy.
The Hungarian side take on opponents from Azerbaijan, Italy and Northern Ireland in the world's top amateur competition, open to players, mostly with third-tier clubs, who have never had a professional contract. The 20 members of the Keleti Régió squad have prepared for the tournament as best they could in what available free time they had – negotiating busy work schedules to get themselves in peak condition.
Fodor turns out for Kisvárda, who have just won their regional third division and a play-off against Szeged, so next season he will play in the professional second tier of Hungarian football. "It is not easy to combine football and work as a fireman with 24 and 48-hour shifts," Fodor told the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) website. "We have regular conversations so that I can attend training and matches, in addition to the fire service.
"I've managed to escape the work-training-football routine for a few days now and prepare in a professional way for the tournament. A few days ago I was afraid I would not be able to travel with the team because of the flooding to the Danube, given firemen were needed to take control of some of the dykes.
"Had I been placed on this advanced level of duty I would be working on the Danube flood plain instead of being at our training camp. I won't lie – I am glad that did not happen and that I was able to come with the national team, because now I have one of the biggest challenges of my career. From this point of view it is much easier for the professionals to prepare, but I still secretly hope I can reach a higher level and it would be a dream to earn a top-flight contract."
Last autumn Keleti Régió qualified from intermediary round Group 3 in the Czech Republic by knocking out their hosts and sides from Germany and Scotland. The standard in Italy will be higher still, yet Fodor, an attacking midfielder, says the players are optimistic and ready for battle.
"I hope the team are capable of getting good results, all the more so because we emerged from a very strong group. Perhaps the teams in Italy aren't expecting much from us now, but we don't know too much about any of our rivals because at this level they are almost completely unknown quantities.
"Maybe our greatest strength is our great team unity which was forged the last time we were together, so any new players will be quickly integrated. It is no exaggeration to say there is a friendship between us and we are in very good spirits preparing for the event.
"Motivation will not be a problem. Everyone is excited about playing in a UEFA tournament, not to mention the fact the finals are a great career opportunity."
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