Landmark day for Confederations Cup volunteers
As South Africa steadily prepares to host the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009, today was the day over 1 000 of its most committed residents put their hands up to offer their services to ensure the tournament's success in their country.
On a landmark day for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (OC), the first group of volunteers selected for the FIFA Confederations Cup descended on Johannesburg's Nasrec Expo Centre to begin the first day of their induction training in preparation for the tournament.
It was the culmination of a long process, with today's group part of 4 000 volunteers - from an initial 40,000 applications - who were selected for the four Confederations Cup host cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane/Pretoria, Mangaung/Bloemfontein and Rustenburg.
They came from far and wide, young and old and from all walks of life, determined to stand up and be counted when it really mattered, as their country prepares to put on its biggest undertaking yet in its fledgling democracy.
"This is a moment we have been waiting for since 2006 and today it is finally happening. Thank you for taking the initiative, thank you for being patient throughout the whole selection process. If you did not have the energy and the resilience you all have shown, then you would not be sitting here today. We want to thank you for being prepared to make your contribution to the success of this event. We really appreciate your time, effort and commitment," said the OC's Volunteer Programme Manager, Onke Mjo, as the volunteers cheered excitedly in appreciation.
The energy and excitement was palpable on the faces of the volunteers and it was clear today was a special day for them. It was a day where they stood up and offered their assistance to work at a tournament which is a vital stepping stone on the road to a successful 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
For the majority of the volunteers, it was all about giving something back to their country.
"Volunteering is a big part of my outlook on life. This event will show the world what we are capable of for 2010 and beyond," said Farouk Badat, a volunteer who has been involved in South African football since South Africa was allowed back on the world stage, even being a masseuse for the Bafana squad at one time.
"It is a great opportunity to give back what I have learned in my career and life. I have been through apartheid, I have been through Nelson Mandela's freedom and presidency and to be part of this is an honour," said 39-year-old marketing company Chief Executive Officer, Devian Nadasen, who will be assisting with the marketing aspects of the tournament.
Some were so keen to be involved that they travelled great distances to be part of the volunteer team. Abdul-Kader Adam, a manager of a steel mill who once played professional football for club side Dynamos, came all the way from Durban to offer his assistance as a volunteer.
"It is all about my passion for the game of football. This is why I volunteered. When I was a professional player we missed out on such tournaments, because we were banned under the apartheid regime. Now, this is my opportunity to be involved in a football tournament that we as South Africans once could never have played in, but we are now hosting".
And for others, it was all about the hope of getting close to their football heroes.
Ghabnam Joosub (27), who works in a family-owned construction business, hopes to get up close to the Spanish team, which was the main reason she applied to be a volunteer.
"I truly am football mad and I will definitely be following Spain in the Confederations Cup. It is very rare that you get such world class teams playing in South Africa, so to be involved is an opportunity that I could not miss out on," said Joosub.
For student, Matshidiso Mokgapa, it was about being part of a very special moment in her country's history.
"I want to be an ambassador for South Africa and I want my children to know what I did for my country. It is about being part of history," said Mokgapa, who will be assisting with spectator relations.
As the ‘champions of champions' Spain, Brazil, Italy, New Zealand, Egypt, USA, Iraq and South Africa's Bafana Bafana battle it out for the FIFA Confederations Cup trophy, off the pitch a dedicated army of volunteers will ensure things run smoothly and that the players get to do what they do best.