"I'm going to miss it, because this is my last year," said UEFA Youth and Amateur Football Committee chairman Jim Boyce as he pondered this being his final UEFA Regions' Cup. "I have been to all of the Regions' Cups – it's something I have been pleased and privileged to do."
Very much the patron saint of the world's top amateur competition, the 71-year-old Boyce is on his final lap of UEFA's competitions this summer, and he is hoping that he is leaving the UEFA Regions' Cup in good health. "UEFA have got to be congratulated for introducing a tournament like this," he said. "This is the Champions League for amateur players. These are lads who play at the weekend and play mainly for fun, but they have an opportunity to play in a European competition, come to new countries and make new friends."
The ninth edition of the UEFA Regions' Cup draws to a close this afternoon with the final between Eastern Region IRL and Zagreb, and Boyce was unstinting in his praise for the efforts of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), the local organising committee (many of them volunteers) and UEFA's staff on site. "The FAI have been absolutely superb," he said. "I've spoken to the officials who have been in Dublin for over a week and they've been delighted; the hotel is excellent, and the weather has been incredible – they think they're in the Costa del Sol."
Temperatures have dipped a little from their exhausting midweek highs; forecasts suggest around 21C for this afternoon's final – sun, but not too much sun. That can only help the amateur players involved to express themselves on what could be the biggest day of their footballing lives. Some, as Boyce knows well, are "in the shop window" hoping to play at a higher level, but he prefers to see the competition as an end in itself rather than a springboard to greater things.
"Many friendships have been made here and for me that's what's football all about," he said. "And I know that all the teams will go back home with many happy memories of the Regions' Cup. I hope it makes them better people, but there have been players who have been spotted by higher up teams. And the teams involved want to win the same as Barcelona want to win, the same as Real Madrid want to win. The games have been very competitive."
His final hope for the competition? "I hope it will continue for years to come."
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