The purpose of the UEFA Regions' Cup is not to give amateur players a second chance of a professional footballing career, but the fact remains that great players do slip through the net.
Unlike many of the players involved – who are happy to play football in their spare time only – Olimp Moscow striker Roman Asadov is still hoping for that elusive call from a professional club. "I came here just to win a tournament, but maybe someone might spot me and offer me a move somewhere," he told UEFA.com. "I would love to see how I would get on in a European league. Why not?"
Football is everything for the 25-year-old economics graduate. "It is not just a game for me - it's almost the meaning of my life," he said. "I have played since I was a child. I spent eight years playing on the local playground before being taken on by a youth team, at first as a defender, then moving forward step by step. I haven't managed to reach the next level up yet, but there's still time."
A creative forward who was one of the top scorers in the qualifying section of this UEFA Regions' Cup with four goals, he is evidence of the passion for the game that exists at amateur level. "I sacrifice a lot of time to football," he explained. "Me and my wife even travel to watch Russian clubs when they play overseas in Europe."
Now part of a different kind of Russian travelling contingent, some of Asadov's dreams are coming true as he gets the chance to live and work like a professional in Veneto. "The first impressions have been amazing," he said. "Italy is very beautiful and the tournament is very unpredictable."
Olimp's progress has not been slick so far; an opening-day draw with Yugoiztochen Region followed by a 1-0 defeat by Belarus's Isloch has left them needing to beat Group B favourites Selección Catalana soundly on Thursday and hope that results elsewhere go their way if they are to reach the final. A tough call for the club founded at the Istok military engineering complex in 1936, who are edging towards a place in Russia's third tier.
However, their experienced goalkeeper and captain Andrei Pogorelov is making sure that the side remain absolutely focused on the task at hand. "We haven't come here for a holiday," explained Asadov. "Our captain is our leader in life as well as on the pitch. He watches the guys and doesn't let us veg out. He is the captain because guys pay attention to him."
Pogorelov will need to muster up all of his leadership skills to get the best out of a side who go into their last Group B game with one player suspended and two key defenders injured but, if Asadov's determination is anything to go by, they have a chance. "That's football - it's life," he said of Olimp's setbacks. "We will carry on working as usual. It ain't over 'til it's over. We have nothing left to lose."
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