As the FIFA Confederations Cup heats up, the festive mood around South Africa continues as thousands of people flocked to USA against Italy at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Tshwane/Pretoria last night.
For some though, the tournament is not about sitting back and enjoying the feast of football on offer. Over 4000 South Africans are currently working as volunteers around the four stadiums and host cities, playing their very important role in ensuring that the FIFA Confederations Cup is a success.
Scores of volunteers are needed to ensure that the entire two-week tournament runs smoothly, especially on match day. "We've been looking forward to today and have been preparing for quite a while," says 31-year old Frederick Mbazima while paging through the volunteers training manual. "Now its time for the practical," he adds, shutting the booklet as the USA and Italy match was about to get underway.
By profession Mbazima is a mechanical technician at a Pretoria based nuclear energy research facility but at Loftus Versfeld he is a spectator services volunteer. As the fans stream into the stadium Mbazima will lead them through the correct Gate entrances. "The Confederations Cup is an opportunity for us to meet people, make friends and to engage with people from overseas. The only way I saw for me to be a part of all of this was through the volunteer programme," he says.
The volunteers all seem very proud to be part of the tournament and therefore revel in describing their roles and responsibilities. Suliman Anvar Suliman, the supervisor for the Tshwane/Pretoria accreditation centre describes his operational area as the heart and soul of the tournament. "Nothing can function without us," he says.
Since 1 June Anvar Suliman and his team have been hard at work accrediting media officials and tournament staff for venue access, but he says last night was definitely their their busiest day so far.
"I think we've had about 1 000 people pass through here today - from stewards, to police officers, media, caterers and body guards. But we're proud to say things have gone very smoothly."
A proud South African, Suliman says that working as a volunteer for the FIFA Confederations Cup is not something he takes for granted. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It might not come again, not even in my children's lifetime. It's a chance for me to give back to my country."
Of the nearly 40 000 people that applied to be volunteers for the tournament a total of 4 030 (1129 from Tshwane/Pretoria) were chosen after a rigorous recruitment process that included a panel interview.
Twenty-three year old Charles Ndlovu from Bushbuckridge says that when the panel asked him why he wanted to be a volunteer his answer was simple. "I grew up serving my community and I grew up loving my country. So of course, I would love to welcome the world to South Africa. Being a volunteer is not about money or anything else - it's about service and love."
An equally proud Solomon Modaka says that he wants to volunteer again next year. While checking tickets from his post at one of the main entrance gates where supporters arrive from the Park and Ride/Walk facilities he says, "When 2010 comes, you'll see me there - I'll be volunteering again," said Modaka who will definitely be handing in his 2010 volunteer application when the programme opens on 20 July this year.