For Gabriela Palacios-Flusk football was always going to be an important aspect of her life. As the daughter of former Peruvian player and Bafana Bafana coach Augusto Palacios, Gabriela was exposed to professional aspects of the game from a very young age.
Football has been her family's livelihood for decades and during the FIFA Confederation Cup she found a way of paying the beautiful game back. The Johannesburg based attorney was one of 4000 volunteers who helped to make the FIFA Confederations Cup, seen as a dry-run for 2010, such a big success. For Gabriela football is quite literally in her blood.
FIFA.com caught up with her to find out more about her experience during the FIFA Confederations Cup and to find out her opinion on why people should apply to volunteer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
FIFA.com: What motivated you to get involved with volunteering for the FIFA Confederations Cup?
Gabriela Palacios-Flusk: Football is my life. I have grown up in football. My great uncles were legends in Peruvian football, all of my uncles from my dad's side played professional football and my dad played for the Peruvian national side for 12 years.
What did you do during the tournament?
I was lucky that although I was a host city volunteer I was at the airport at the welcome desk for language support, together with other Organising Committee volunteers.
What were the major highlights and challenges of volunteering?
The highlights were that we felt part of the organisation of the Cup. We made a difference with regard to being the first impression that media, fans and officials got when arriving through customs and passport control at the airport. I think the 2010 Organising Committee and host city volunteers did an awesome job at the airport and they definitely added to the positive perception that many people left South Africa with.
People do not understand the logistics that entails hosting only 8 teams, imagine 30 odd teams. I enjoyed talking to people in Spanish and telling them about our beautiful South Africa.
Do you have a special memory from the FIFA Confederations Cup?
I met so many foreign press and officials. A highlight was meeting the national coach of Costa Rica( Rodrigo Kenton) who was here as part of the FIFA Technical Study Group.
When I met him after he got off plane I chatted to him in Spanish.
We got to the subject of my dad and how he remembers my dad very fondly having played in Costa Rica back in 1979. He remembered that my dad has been voted the best foreign player in 1979 and how he thought he was one of the best players to have ever played in Costa Rica. That made me very proud.
Of course, I was in awe every time Brazil played but my most memorable game was singing Nkosi Sikelele i'Africa before the SA vs Spain game. I have been in countless local games, weekend in and weekend out and have never felt the spirit as in that evening in Bloemfontein.
Would you encourage other people to volunteer?
Definitely. Football has given so much to me over the years. It has given my family a livelihood and a sense of belonging. It gives many of us joy, tears and immeasurable entertainment and excitement. It is time to give something back. I want to be part of making this the best World Cup ever. I think it is sad and silly that people prefer to be part of the booing brigade. What do they gain from it? By being a volunteer, one can meet people, gain experience and be part of an experience that would probably only come to South Africa in our lifetime.
What would you say to people to encourage them to volunteer?
Be part of the solution, it is the best way to feel South African and show that South Africans can deliver world class events, hospitality and tourism. I know that our country has problems, every country does, but what do we gain by sitting on our hands and not getting involved. You can at least say, I was part of it.
Are you volunteering for the World Cup?
What can people who volunteer for the World Cup expect?
A lot of hard work, long hours but a lot of fun.
As of 31 July the number of applications for the 2010 FIFA World Cup had passed the 23 000 mark. The volunteer application process will remain open until August 31. The Organising Committee will then select the 15,000 volunteers who will be deployed during the tournament.