Written by Pat McGuinness – Twitter: @patsfballblog
One of the least-heralded teams to take part in this year’s World Football Cup, the Ukrainian region of Kárpátalya surprised a great many people by winning the tournament! One of the players who played a big part in Kárpátalya’s triumph is Gergo Gyurki, who plays his club football in Hungary for second-level side Soproni VSE.
In an interview ahead of the quarter-finals, he gave his view on the team’s tournament so far. “I think we played well in our first match against Northern Cyprus [their eventual opponents in the final]; it was a hard game because the game was very physical; we prefer a more technical game. So, it was hard for us but we missed a lot of chances, so we drew.
“Our second match was played against Abkhazia; we played well and won 2-0, and our last opponents were Tibet. Again, we played well, we enjoyed playing and we won 5-0.”
Many people were surprised that Kárpátalya progressed at Abkhazia’s expense, but Gyurki wasn’t one of them: “A lot of players in our team play in the top division in Hungary, such as Roland Takacs, Istvan Sandor, Gyorgy Sandor, and other players play together for the same club, so for us, the result wasn’t a surprise as our strength is playing as a team. The most important thing for us is to play together and fight together as a team.”
As the team which finished third in CONIFA’s World Football Cup European qualification list, Kárpátalya were listed as the European region’s first reserve team should another side scratch from the competition, and were awarded a place at this year’s World Football Cup when Felvidek withdrew at the beginning of May. It left the team with little time to prepare, but the players were helped by player-manager István Sándor.
“We had just a few training sessions before the tournament, but the manager spoke to us a lot before the tournament started, and that was a very big help for us [with regard to the team’s tactics]. That was very important.”
A quarter-final clash with Cascadia awaited the Kárpátalyans, and Gyurki had this to say about what was to come: “It will be the same sort of game as against Northern Cyprus because Cascadia will be very physical. We try to keep the ball on the floor and we try to play combination football. I hope we will have a successful match.”
What does it mean to Gyurki to play for the team representing Kárpátalya’s large Hungarian minority? “It’s a great feeling as we are a Hungarian team, like Szekely Land. It’s good meeting other Hungarian players, and it’s good to be here and playing for Kárpátalya. It’s a very good thing… We try to play from our hearts.”
What of the future for the team; will they perhaps qualify for the next European Championship or the next World Football Cup? After all, they have greatly impressed, not to mention surprised, fans and pundits alike with their attractive football, but Gyurki is keeping his feet on the ground and his focus purely on the next game against Cascadia.
“Maybe [we will qualify for both competitions], but we still have to play three more matches here and we have to go step by step and try to play better and better. Maybe we have a chance to get to the final, but for now we have to concentrate on the next step.”
Kárpátalya won the CONIFA Paddy Power World Football Cup on penalties against Northern Cyprus.