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Malopolska host first contest

The qualifying campaign for the fourth UEFA Regions' Cup begins in Poland this weekend.

First mini-tournament
The first of ten mini-tournaments to decide which eight teams will contest next year's final round will kick-off in Poland on 1 August with teams from Poland, Germany, Azerbaijan and Serbia and Montenegro looking to show their worth in UEFA's blue riband competition for amateur footballers.

Polish hosts
The Group 6 hosts are Michal Krolikowski's Malopolska Amateur, a side who boast the pick of the amateur players from the region centering around Krakow in the southern part of Poland. They will open the tournament with a game against Azerbaijan's FC Femida Beylagan at the Wolbrom stadium on Sunday.

Previous experience
Malopolska competed in the first ever Regions' Cup in 1999, reaching the final tournament in Italy only to finish third in their qualifying group behind Praha Amateur and losing finalists Madrid Amateur. They also competed in the qualifying tournaments for the 2003 finals.

Azerbaijani opponents
Femida, coached by 37-year-old Cryah Pashayev, may have no experience of the tournament but they have the example of another Azeri team, Geyazan Amateur, to guide them as they aim for a place in the finals. Geyazan were one of the eight teams who played in the Regions' Cup finals in 2003.

Proszowice clash
At the same time as Malopolska and Femida kick-off, 16.00, Eastern Serbia Amateur will begin their game against German contenders Südwestdeutscher FV, who will be led by 41-year-old former 1. FC Kaiserslautern reserve player Heinz-Jürgen Schlösser at the finals, at the Proszowianka stadium in Proszowice.

Südwestdeutscher hopes
Another German side, Württemberg Amateur, hosted the finals of the Regions' Cup in 2003, and hopes are high that Schlösser's men can reach the finals again in 2005. Certainly, the head of their regional football association reckons Südwestdeutscher to be a team of some promise.

'Another milestone'
Franz-Josef Kolb was delighted to see Südwestdeutscher win the Länderpokal trophy - the ultimate prize for German amateur teams and said that he would love the team to go to the Regions' Cup finals too. "It would mean a lot especially after winning the Länderpokal against more than 20 regional associations," he said. "This would be another milestone."

Serbo-Montenegrin interest
However, the Germans will be wary of their first-day opponents, who are coached by 53-year-old Slavoljub Pavlovic, with Serbo-Montenegrin teams having competed in all of the Regions' Cup qualifying tournaments so far. One of them, Vojvodina Amateur, reached the final round in 2001.

Top dogs
Over the ensuing four days, each team will play two more games until every side at the mini-tournament has played each other once. After the final games, which will see Malopolska take on Südwestdeutscher in Brzesko and Femida take on Eastern Serbia in Welbrom, the side that tops the group table will have booked their place in the finals, which will be played in June 2005.