“Smile and life and life will smile on you,” says the proverb, one that 58-year-old Miriam Moreno and her daughter Sara Isabel Collazos can certainly relate to, thanks to their experiences as FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 volunteers. “It’s exceeded our expectations,” said the pair in unison, both of them wearing broad grins, a reflection of their sunny disposition and the joy aroused by a unique experience. Judging by the closeness between them, they have obviously enjoyed each other’s company over the last few weeks.

“We didn’t have to think much before deciding to do it,” said Sara, who has a habit of making her mind up quickly. “It was obvious. I said to Mum: “Are you going to join me?’ and she said yes straightaway.” Driven by her love for new experiences, the 18-year-old Sara wasted little time in putting her interpersonal skills and energy to good use as part of her volunteer duties. “I’ve been so impressed by how easy she finds it to talk to all these people from different cultures and backgrounds,” said her proud mother, before joking: “She’s going to end the tournament with a lot more telephone numbers than me, that’s for sure.”

Having her say in return, Sara commented: “And it’s made me very happy, Mum, to see you practising your English when you’ve had to.” Colombia 2016 has seen Miriam and her daughter, who hail from Envigado – the home town of one James Rodriguez – work side by side for the very first time. 

An IT engineer, Miriam has taken advantage of a quiet period at work to do her bit in helping to ensure everything runs smoothly in Medellin. As for Sara, who, unlike her mother, has been a volunteer before, she has had to make slightly different arrangements: “I asked to have the afternoons off from school so I could go to the stadium a few hours before the match and do my job properly.”

New horizons
The pair have found their work to be both varied and rewarding. In welcoming teams at the airport, helping them at their hotels and responding to anything they may need off the court, they have enjoyed a very pleasant surprise or two. “I have a thing about Egypt, and I’m drawn to the country and its culture,” explained Sara. 

“I’d never met an Egyptian before, though, so you can imagine how happy I was when I heard they were coming to play in Medellin. I did everything I could to go and pick them up at the airport and to be around the team at the stadium. The players saw how enthusiastic I was and they were lovely to me. Ahmed Moza even taught me some Egyptian Arabic.”

The draw also worked out nicely for Miriam, as she explained: “I’m fascinated by Asia, and we also welcomed Iran and Thailand here. I have to say, though, that I also have a soft spot for Azerbaijan. They were so nice and kind to us. I even had a drink with the players after one of their matches. 

"It was hard to keep my allegiance under wraps during their last-16 match with Thailand, but I was in shot on the TV and I had to be professional right to the end of the game,” she said, while Sara winked in the direction of her oriental-style outfit.

Revealing who she was rooting for, Sara said: “I built up a bond with Azerbaijan, especially Vassoura. He’s a lovely guy. The team officials were even going to take me the final in Cali if they got there. They saw me as a lucky charm.” Making her plans clear, Miriam added: “I wasn’t going to let you go without me and I’m counting on you to take me to Egypt in the future.” 

Though the end of the adventure is nigh, mother and daughter have made the most of it and will come away from Colombia 2016 with memories and travel plans aplenty, not to mention a useful contact or two.