After a successful FIFA Confederations Cup 2009, the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (OC) today starts the drive to recruit 15 000 volunteers for next year's showpiece tournament.
With 32 teams participating, an expected influx of 450 000 visitors and 64 matches across nine host cities in ten stadiums, the volunteers will play a vital role in assisting the OC to deliver a successful 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
For the FIFA Confederations Cup alone - which was open to only South African residents - nearly 40 000 people applied for the 4 000 available volunteer positions, making it one of the most sought-after opportunities in the country.
With applications now open to people from around the world and with the scale of the tournament increasing ten-fold, the OC Volunteer Programme has a big job at hand. The OC's Volunteer Programme Manager, Onke Mjo, however believes the organisation is up to the task.
FIFA.com spoke to Mjo to find out more about the volunteer programme and the job that awaits her team and the prospective volunteers.
FIFA.com: How successful was the FIFA Confederations Cup Volunteer Programme?
Onke Mjo: It was very important to have the FIFA Confederations Cup as it gave us the opportunity to test the systems and how things should work. We have learnt so much from the tournament and we can say without hesitation that the FIFA Confederations Cup was a success. It has shown us the way forward to 2010 and we are now very confident that the volunteers programme will be a great success next year. There has also been very positive feedback from the volunteers who obviously enjoyed themselves during the tournament and many of them have been asking when they can apply for the World Cup volunteer programme.
What were the major lessons learnt during the FIFA Confederations Cup volunteer programme?
Even though we view the FIFA Confederations Cup as a success, it lived up to its status as a great test event for the FIFA World Cup. For the 2010 FIFA World Cup Volunteer Programme, we now know we need to strengthen our job-specific training with the volunteer groups and need to make the volunteers more aware of what their job will entail. After running the successful FIFA Confederations Cup programme, it is tightening up the small things we now have to work on for the FIFA World Cup.
How important is the contribution of the volunteers to the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup?
The contribution of the volunteers to the tournament is enormous. Given the the scale of the FIFA World Cup, with ten stadiums, nine host cities and the volume of people and teams coming into the country, the support of the volunteers is invaluable to the success of the World Cup. They certainly will be the lifeblood of the tournament, as they proved during the FIFA Confederations Cup.
What kind of response do you expect from people around the world when applications open?
We can tell from the number of enquiries we have had so far that there is enormous interest in the World Cup volunteers programme. The enthusiasm from people around the world has been tremendous and there is sure to be a large scale interest when applications open today (Monday 20 July) as we have been getting a number of enquiries from around the world in the lead up to the launch. People are excited to have the chance to be part of something so important. With teams now starting to qualify for the World Cup - with the Netherlands, South Korea, North Korea and Australia to name just a few, already in - we are confident that the response from the international community will be strong as more teams begin to qualify.
What do you think is the most critical element to the success of the volunteers programme for 2010?
The character and personality of the volunteers is very important to the success of the tournament. They are the face of the tournament and will be the first people the teams and spectators see when they arrive in the country and the last people they see when they leave after the tournament is over. This, along with the careful planning and in-depth training of the volunteers from the Organising Committee, means we are confident that we will ensure a successful volunteers programme and tournament in general.
What would you say to someone who was thinking of applying to become a volunteer?
To be involved in an event like the World Cup is really an opportunity of a lifetime. To be part of the first World Cup on the African continent is something so special. I want the people interested in becoming a volunteer for 2010 to really think about it carefully though, they must read all the information we have provided on FIFA.com and be informed about what their job will be all about before they sign up. The World Cup is a big commitment as it runs for a full month so they need to be aware of the time they are giving to the tournament.