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UEFA Regions' Cup hosts Malopolska are in pole position to take the European amateur crown.

By Pawel Dimow

A region rich in heritage and natural beauty, Malopolska is situated in the south-eastern corner of Poland, on the border with Slovakia. The regional capital, Kraków, was home to the Kings of Poland in olden times, and is still regarded as perhaps the most beautiful city in the country.

Natural resources
The Malopolska region also boasts Poland's 'winter capital', Zakopane and the Tatra mountains, which contains Mount Rysy - the nation's highest mountain at 2499m. Elsewhere, the Ojcowski National Park is famous for its caves, Wieliczka for its huge salt mine and Wadowice as the birthplace of Pope John Paul II.

Footballing heritage
Malopolska is also home to two of Poland's oldest football clubs, Wisla Kraków and MKS Cracovia SSA - both founded in 1906. Wisla have played a massive part in Polish footballing history, and are the dominant side in the modern Ekstraklasa having a third successive title this season - the tenth in their history.

THE MAN IN COMMAND

Malopolska's UEFA Regions' Cup final campaign will be spearheaded by coach Michal Królikowski, a graduate of Kraków's Academy of Physical Education who was a goalkeeper for KS Garbarnia Kraków, MKS Sandecja Nowy Sacz and KS Hutnik Kraków. Currently coach of fourth division KS Orzel Piaski Wielkie Kraków, he has also coached the likes of Hutnik, ZKS Stal Stalowa Wola, Karpaty Krosno, Garbarnia Kraków and GKS Victoria Jaworzno.

uefa.com: What are you hoping to achieve at the Regions' Cup finals?

Michal Królikowski: Like all of the teams who have won through the eliminators and qualified for the finals of the Regions' Cup, our aim is to win games. In the teams from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria we have very strong rivals but we hope to qualify from Group A and then fight for the trophy. I believe the games will be very interesting.

uefa.com: Have you enjoyed playing in the competition so far?

Królikowski: Yes, of course! Because of the regulations of the tournament our team comprises amateur players who play in the Polish fourth division and lower. The Regions' Cup is a lifetime adventure for these players and gives them a wonderful opportunity to play with teams from other countries. Recently, we have played many international games and we are very happy.

uefa.com: What do you feel are the strengths of your team?

Królikowski: The atmosphere in our team is very good and our main strengths are teamwork, reasonable technical skills and tactical discipline. Of course, we are not Brazil but if the players fulfil their tactical tasks we can compete with the best sides at this level.

uefa.com: What kind of professions do you and your players have?

Królikowski: Malopolska is quite big and we have players from different parts of the region. They have a wide range of professions. For example, we have a lot of students and some of our players work at the Okocim Brewery which is a part of the Carlsberg Group.

uefa.com: What would winning the trophy mean to you?

Królikowski: Our players have been training very hard and the preparations for the tournament have cost them a lot of time and energy. Winning the Regions' Cup would be a wonderful reward for them. For many of them this would be the biggest success in their lives. Some of them might be spotted by the scouts of the bigger clubs and then signed to play in the higher divisions.