Helpers with smiles on their faces
It is a scene that has been played out several times over the past fortnight. Tens of thousands of fans approach the stadium, locate their tickets and then their seats, and settle down to enjoy the football on offer at the FIFA Confederations Cup.
All the while, quietly yet painstakingly, a group of volunteers pass to and fro, providing information, assisting the press, taking care of security, and no small thing smiling. These volunteers form an integral part of the tournament and, just like the on-pitch protagonists, have stories to tell.
The tale of 21-year-old Patricia Cambon, one of 600 volunteers currently in service in Frankfurt, offers a particularly fascinating vignette. 'Pato', as she is known, is not German, in fact she does not even live in Germany. 'Pato' hails from Montevideo in Uruguay, but she travelled to Europe specifically to work at the FIFA Confederations Cup. "People don't believe me when I tell them. Some say I am mad to have paid my way over here, but the truth is, this is a great experience for me," she tells FIFAworldcup.com.
She got here by a roundabout route. As with many volunteers, it was pure chance that she even found out about the possibility of working at the tournament. "I was trying to get tickets for the World Cup final on the FIFA website, but didn't obtain any through the draw. However, on the site I saw an advert for volunteers and didn't think twice."
Patricia had extra incentive for volunteering: "I am a journalist and work in the media back home, and being here gives me access to other journalists and, of course, the players. Add to that the fact it is football, which is one of my passions, and what more could I ask for?"
A volunteer's lot is by no means easy. "In principle, we have to do six hours' work every day at the stadium, although in practice we are around for longer, helping the press, the photographers and the players too," says 'Pato', who more than once has acted as a translator for the Mexican and Argentinian delegations.
The collective image can be misleading yet the volunteers, whose khaki uniforms have made them a ubiquitous sight around the city, are in many cases university-educated and/or professionals. "Initially you think you are going to be surrounded by younger people, but I have colleagues who are doctors, engineers and police officers. It's incredible how people make this effort to serve their country, and football in general," she says.
With her is 20-year-old Daniela Fremuth, who has also come to Germany expressly for the tournament. Although her case is a bit different: she might be Mexican but she has a German father, and on matchdays she is involved with security. "The work is really tough," Daniela tells FIFAworldcup.com, "but the satisfaction you get from being part of an event like this is hard to describe. You can't live a tournament like this so closely when you're stuck at home."
Given their experiences here, both are hoping for a future assignment to receive the call to repeat the exercise at the FIFA World Cup next summer. "With the practice we have had, it would be wonderful to come back here to work next year," they concur, before setting off for the stadium. There is a match to get ready for, people to help. A long night lies ahead, but Patricia and Daniela are all smiles.