Teams assured of warm Free State Confed Cup welcome
While the ‘Soweto giants' of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates comfortably remain South Africa's biggest clubs, the Free State province have in recent times made a strong claim to be known as "football country" in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ host country.
That this is the case is due entirely to the fanatical fans of Bloemfontein Celtic Football Club in the city of Mangaung, a host city for the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 and 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Despite Celtic having a poor season and narrowly avoiding relegation from the South African Premiership, the club's fans have remained fanatical and resolute, always ensuring Celtic play to big crowds both at home and away - singing and dancing in inimitable style in their club's green and white hooped jerseys.
So, when the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (OC) made a call for volunteers from the city and the province to assist during the FIFA Confederations Cup, it came as no surprise that the city's football fans responded enthusiastically and in great numbers.
Mangaung will host games between Brazil and Egypt, Spain and South Africa and Spain and Iraq, as well as a semi-final match, during the FIFA Confederations Cup, and around 800 volunteers were selected to assist during the tournament.
When the OC's Chief Executive Officer Dr Danny Jordaan addressed the volunteers this weekend during their first training session at the Tsoseletso High School this weekend, the atmosphere was a carnival one more akin to a football match as the volunteers greeted Jordaan with singing and dancing in the aisles.
If Jordaan's reception is anything to go by, the likes of Brazil, Spain, Egypt, Iraq and of course the hosts are in for a warm welcome when the tournament gets underway on 14 June 2009.
"We are here to thank you," Jordaan told the volunteers when the din had finally settled after his boisterous entrance.
"In this room alone there are more than 800 people. At our headquarters for the total organisation of the World Cup we have only about 200 full-time employees. Those statics tell you who it is that actually delivers the World Cup. It's you and we want to thank you for volunteering your time, energy and commitment to make this event the success we know it will be," added Jordaan.
Jordaan told the volunteers it was the first time the African continent is hosting the FIFA World Cup, with South Africa one of only 19 countries to have done so and that their role was critical.
"It's now your responsibility, together with us, to make sure people say ‘we did not make a mistake, bringing the World Cup to Africa and to South Africa was the right thing to do'," said Jordaan.
And the volunteers are certainly ready to fulfill their role and grateful to Jordaan and the OC for the opportunity to contribute to the tournament's success.
"Many applied, we were chosen and we want to thank you for the confidence you've shown in us. We want to assure you we will give the very best of ourselves," one volunteer told Jordaan.
"We volunteered not for money, but to make this event a huge success," another added.
During his visit to Mangaung, Jordaan also met with the branch chairpersons of the Bloemfontein Celtic supporters clubs in the area, who had earlier welcomed him singing and dancing in the city when he arrived at the airport.
"I want to congratulate you for what you as Bloemfontein Celtic supporters have achieved. If the bond is strong in the communities you form part of, whether it's a football club or a church, you help build a nation. There must be things we feel passionately about, things that are meaningful, and I want to congratulate you for giving your time and energy for that which is positive and creative. You create an electric atmosphere at stadiums and generate a sense of belonging for people," said Jordaan.
And the appreciation was mutual.
"We too want to convey our profound gratitude for you taking the time to meet with ordinary supporters, who do not wear suits and ties. I want to assure you Bloemfontein Celtic supporters will converge, sing their lungs out and give you massive support in a practical manner to ensure the FIFA Confederations Cup is a success," Celtic supporter Pule Malebo, from the club's Batho branch, told Jordaan.