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Amateurs enjoy their day in the sun

The fourth UEFA Regions' Cup in Poland ended as a joyous victory for Vasca and for amateur football as a whole.

By Jim Wirth in Krakow

"It's incredible," Vasca striker Alain Arroyo told uefa.com moments after his side lifted the UEFA Regions' Cup. "You can't put these emotions into words."

Sun setting
A fair point, but as the sun sets on the KS Proszowianka stadium in Proszowice after Arroyo's goal gave the Spanish representatives victory against South-West Region-Sofia in the world's top tournament for amateur footballers, it seemed appropriate to have a go at doing just that.

Polish drama
If you were looking for footballing drama this weekend, the Malopolska region of Poland was the place to be. Not content with dominating the game, Vasca made life difficult for themselves after captain Fernando Veliz was shown a second yellow card nine minutes into the second half.

Mass celebration
Regardless, having scored the only goal of the game after 33 minutes, they held on, and when the excellent referee from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Novo Panic, blew the final whistle, it was the cue for a riotous celebration as the Basques showed the pride and the exuberance for which their region is noted.

Coach rejoices
"We are so happy that we have done it," coach José Antonio Goikoetxea told uefa.com moments after being triumphantly thrown into the air by his players in the middle of the pitch. "We are really happy to have reached this stage. For all of the players it is a very big moment."

No doubts
There were some nervous moments after his side were reduced to ten men, but Goikoetxea maintained that he never thought Vasca would relinquish their lead. "The team were playing well on the pitch and I did not think we would lose but it was best when we were eleven against eleven," he said.

Bold endurance
"When we were reduced to ten men we obviously had to play much deeper in defence but they only had one chance in the very last minute," he added. "At first, when it was eleven against eleven, I thought we would score a second goal but we had to defend and we did very well."

Shared glory
Few would deny Vasca their glory - they showed passion and ingenuity throughout the game with Arroyo proving a constant thorn in Sofia's side - but perhaps, on such a momentous occasion, they might not be too upset to share their victory with the principles of amateur football which the Regions' Cup embodies.

Pure football
This tournament remains a celebration of football in it purest form. These players were all at this final tournament because they play football for the love of the game, and not for a salary - although that situation may be different for a number of the stars of the final tournament.

Going up
Sofia's tall striker Ivan Todorov, who was given an award as the tournament's top scorer after the match, is capable of playing professional football, while Arroyo is due to spend some time in pre-season training with newly-promoted Primera División side Deportivo Alavés once he gets back home.

Humbler destiny
The other players may not be bound for anywhere so lofty, but they will not forget their trip to Poland. The army of locals, from the Polish Football Federation, the local association Malopolska and from the terraces at every game, have helped make them all feel like heroes.

Heroes all
And as the most distinguished foot-soldiers in the great army of men and women who battle on through sun, rain and snow to play football for the simple joy of participating every week, all across Europe, maybe that is how they deserve to be treated.