Of the 99,000 people who applied, 5,652 were selected as volunteers for the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013. On Saturday 2,600 of the successful applicants made their first visits to the tournament’s six stadiums to attend training events and meet the teams they will be working with.

To get this far the volunteers have all gone through a long selection process that has included online training, group dynamics sessions, interviews and, in some cases, English tests. The main factor in their selection, however, was their willingness to take part in a unique event.

In Rio de Janeiro, which will host two group-phase matches at the Festival of Champions as well as the final, nearly 1,000 people turned up at the Maracanazinho sports hall, near the Maracana, for the start of in-person training. Among them was Elizabeth Bellas, a retired social worker who is eagerly awaiting the start of the tournament.

“I feel privileged to be here and have this opportunity to take part in a great event, discover new cultures and broaden our horizons,” said Elizabeth, who will be helping out with spectator services and whose son Amilton has applied to be a volunteer at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. “Being here on the inside is the only way we can see all this happen.”

Among the new friends Elizabeth made on Saturday is Celeste Cerqueira, who spent 20 years in Saudi Arabia with her daughters and husband, a fitness trainer working with Brazilian coaches at Saudi football clubs. Having made the journey back home, she is taking a family holiday to be a volunteer at the FIFA Confederations Cup.

“My husband jokingly asked me if there wasn’t a place for him,” said Celeste, who will be lending her support with ticketing. “I made it clear though. He’s the one who’ll be staying at home and it’s me who’ll be going to the Cup. My family is very happy for me. I’m here because it’s something I want to do and because I want to help Brazil.”

As well as ticketing and spectator services, volunteers also received training in the areas of transport, accreditation, protocol, media services and catering, with most of the training sessions taking place in the stands at the gyms and stadiums, all with the aid of big screens. The trainees were also given a tour of the arenas where they will be working.

“The FIFA Confederations Cup would be impossible to stage without volunteers,” said Rodrigo Hermida, the director of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ Organising Committee’s volunteer programme. “Volunteering is an integral part of every major event and FIFA embraced the concept a long time ago. It’s a way of getting the country and its people involved in the event so that everyone can participate and be part of it. The willingness of volunteers to help out makes all the difference.”