A hard-working group in the background away from the spotlight is crucial to the success of any tournament. Clichéd though it may be, that is certainly the case at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Costa Rica 2014.
Every tournament is supported with the willing support of a veritable army of volunteers assisting all aspects of the competition including accreditation, media operations, medical services and transportation to name just a few. For many, it is a unique opportunity to see behind the curtain of a major event and into a world removed from the usual supporter.
One volunteer with a unique perspective, however, is Monica Vargas. While many volunteers are students or workers taking time out from their normal employment, Vargas is herself of a veteran of her own World Cup experience. The 23-year-old represented Costa Rica at the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany, but now finds herself on the other side of the white line.
“This has been a rewarding experience and so enjoyable to be collaborating with so many international and local people,” Vargas told FIFA.com amid a hive of activity in the volunteers' enclosure ahead of the semi-finals in Liberia. “It has been a unique experience, and I never thought I would see such an important women’s tournament in Costa Rica. I love every part of it.”
Central midfielder Vargas played two matches for Las Ticas at Germany 2010, and now plies her trade for UCEM Alajuela in the Costa Rican national league. “I have had mixed emotions because I know what it is like to be on the other side of the white line,” she said. “So when I see the girls in the tunnel, there is a little tug at the heart.”
At Costa Rica 2014 Vargas has been co-ordinating the ball kids and the flag bearers who present the teams' colours during the pre-match ceremonies. And suffice to say, she is as proud of her group as they are of her as their mentor. “We have some great players among my group, and I think one day they can be in their own World Cup. I am proud of my group and they can go far in life and also maybe football.”
Welcoming the world
The first FIFA tournament held in Costa Rica has of course been a unique event for the nation for whom pura vida (pure life) is a renowned catchphrase. The volunteers have been rewarded for their efforts with a smooth and efficient event off the field, and it is hard to imagine any visitor departing Costa Rica without an immensely positive impression.
Volunteers not only have the opportunity to be exposed to numerous visitors from all corners of the globe, they often are provided with an invaluable opportunity to work in their preferred profession. “This has been the best experience of my career so far in terms of journalism,” said Nicole Chaves a university journalism student working at Tibas, the storied home of Deportivo Saprissa and, until recently, the national team.
“We were all able to meet people from many different cultures, and from all over the world. I even had to look on the internet just to see where some people came from! The World Cup has been special for Costa Rica so I feel lucky to be able to live it in this way.”