No major event operates successfully without volunteers. And the same, of course, is true at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013, but the impact and importance of their contribution has been magnified several times over in French Polynesia.
Some of the facts are quite simply staggering. Nearly 500 volunteers have made a contribution to make the event highly successful; this out of a population numbering around only 200,000. Additionally some of the volunteers have been working on the tournament for months on end, since early 2012 in some cases. None of them are paid for their commitment to the cause.
The area volunteers operate in is varied – security, medical, media, logistics and transport to name just a few – and the dedication of those partaking have unquestionably made the event the huge triumph it has been.
Rare tales of devotion
Some of the individual cases are just a small microcosm of the commitment that has been on display. There is the story of Panaho, the fisherman from the remote and barely inhabited island of Takaroa, who saved for six months to pay for his flight to come to the main landmass and participate. His story is just one of several like it, with numerous volunteers attending from the more remote islands, and in many instances the Local Organising Committee (LOC) have found lodgings for those travelling.
For many, this past fortnight has been a unique opportunity to participate in a global event, the likes of which have never seen before in French Polynesia. They have been rewarded for their efforts with a smooth and efficient event off the field, and unprecedented success for Tahiti on it. It is hard to imagine any visitor to the tournament departing without an immensely positive impression.
Reward too has come in unexpected ways with the opportunity to meet people from all corners of the globe. Some lucky volunteers had the opportunity to be training partners with Madjer, the former Portugal superstar of previous Beach Soccer World Cups, and current FIFA Technical Study Group member.
For some students it has been an invaluable experience to operate in their chosen profession. “It’s been great to meet people from all over the world, and to see the world come to our small nation,” said media and communications student Valentine Bluet. “As a student it is a wonderful experience to see media operations in action and be part of a huge and special event for French Polynesia.”
Head of Volunteers Tearai Vimahi speaks glowingly and with genuine warmth about her team and experiences. “This is a massive event to have here in French Polynesia,” she says, as a stream of volunteers offer greetings for their clearly popular manager. “We have never had anything like this before and we are so happy to be part of this adventure. It has been great to see people from other countries and I’m proud of our country and what we have done.”
The LOC have tried to offer what they can in return to support those supporting them. And in one instance of generosity, they assisted costs for well-known local football figure Laverna Tarihaa to travel to France for her seriously ill sister’s kidney donation.
This has indeed been a rare tournament where the general spirit of togetherness has in many ways superseded events on the pitch. And it is the natural warmth and generosity of the Polynesian people has been the bedrock on which this success has been built.