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Gonfalone hails workers' World Cup

Coach Patrick Gonfalone is in thrall to the romance of the UEFA Regions' Cup after leading France's Basse-Normandie AMA to next summer's finals.

Coach Patrick Gonfalone is in thrall to the romance of the UEFA Regions' Cup after leading France's Basse-Normandie AMA to next summer's finals.

Winning position
Two wins in their opening two games as hosts of the Group 1 mini-tournament in the north of France have left Basse-Normandie at the top of the table ahead of their final game against Lithuania's Alytis AMA, with a superior head-to-head record to any of the teams that can catch them on points, and former SCO Angers, AJ Auxerre, Le Harvre AC and SC Abbeville player Gonfalone is delighted.

Amateurs' due
"I am proud to be involved in the UEFA Regions' Cup," said Gonfalone, who has been a coach for 19 years. "It's an attractive event which gives value to amateur football, regional and local leagues. It's a great way to reward players who rarely get attention for their efforts."

'Human adventure'
The UEFA Regions' Cup is contested every two years by the winners of a nation's regional amateur champions, with the players taking time out from their professions to play for the joy of competing. "The UEFA Regions' Cup is a very human adventure," said Gonfalone. "It brings people together."

Scouting role
Gonfalone's job as coach of the Basse-Normandie regional association has seen him assemble a squad from all of the local amateur clubs, which then prevailed in a national competition involving 19 other regional associations to decide who would be competing for France in the UEFA Regions' Cup.

Itinerant position
"My youngest player is 21, the oldest is 33," he said. "My job is mainly a question of scouting. I have gone round and round the region to watch them all in action because I knew that I wouldn't have much time to spend with them together. After all, we're amateurs!"

High standards
Amateurs in spirit perhaps, but their standards have been almost professional. For that, much credit must go to their coach, who has also worked as a goalkeeping coach with the French Under-21 side, joining them at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals in Portugal this summer.

Different world
"[The U21s] is nothing like the same climate as the Regions' Cup," he said. "It's like another sport. For players, this tournament is unique. It's just one facet of my job in helping local players but it is fascinating and I try to bring my experience and professionalism to the organisation."

French pride
Having seemingly knocked holders Vasca AMA out of the tournament, along with 2005 finals participants Republic of Ireland AMA, Gonfalone can now set his sights on at least matching the achievements of 2003 French contenders Ligue du Maine AMA, who were beaten finalists in Germany. The motivation is certainly there, as Gonfalone said: "We never forget that we are defending our shirt, our colours, our nation."