The vibe in Nelson Mandela Bay this weekend was upbeat and bustling with camaraderie as 1,500 2010 FIFA World Cup™ volunteers spent the weekend training for the upcoming tournament.
The volunteers came from diverse walks of life, but were all proud to be taking part and doing their country a service.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro is home to the oldest volunteer in South Africa. 79-year-old Daya Amrit – who has become somewhat a celebrity – says he is aiming to leave his mark both on the first World Cup to be held on African soil and in the Guinness World Book of records.
So committed is he that he spent the whole day last Friday – his 60th wedding anniversary – at volunteer training. “This is the chance of a lifetime we will never see again, well, at least, I will never see again,” enthused Amrit. “So far this World Cup has changed my life in a way I never expected. I’ve met so many people from all walks of life. I just did it (volunteered) because I am a pensioner, I have time, and I am a community-orientated people’s person.”
“This has all been an incredible journey. I have no doubt the World Cup is going to be the cherry on top – but we need the support of the entire South African community, that’s why the volunteers are so important,” added Amrit.
Sharing the excitement means working for South Africa as well as enjoying the festivities and matches, said volunteers. Many adding they are avid supporters of either Portugal – who will face Cote d’Ivoire on 15 June at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium – or Brazil.
Volunteering friends, Shamima Davis and Desnay Baatjies, both students, say they love the beautiful game. “I can’t wait to see Portugal play. I am a huge fan of Cristiano Ronaldo – I’m totally excited for that game. I just can’t believe that Portugal will be playing right here in the Bay,” said Baatjies.
Volunteer couple Saadik (46) and Camila Ismail (44) are throwing their weight behind Germany – who clash against football foes Serbia on June 18 – after forging a connection with the country when they hosted a German exchange student. They are equally passionate about giving time and energy to South Africa.
“You need to give before you get,” explained Camila said of volunteering. “Also being a volunteer gives you the satisfaction of saying: I was there, I made it happen.”
Nosisa Mbolekwa who turned 20 on Friday said she was honoured to be there. “I’m over the moon with excitement. I almost can’t believe that I was chosen to be one of 15,000 volunteers. I am actually speechless – I’ve even given up celebrating my birthday to be here,” said Mbolekwa.
Frenchman Philippe Foucaut (60) retired to South Africa after falling for a “lovely lady”. He decided to put his French fluency to work for his surrogate country to work as a volunteer in language support. “Why not? I can help my compatriots and South Africa – the only problem will be if Bafana Bafana and France play against each other – then my heart would be torn in two.”
Orginally there were 67,999 volunteer applications from 170 countries. An eventual 15,000 were selected to make up the Organising Committee volunteers and 3,000 Host City volunteers.
Over the last few weeks volunteers in each of the Host Cities have been receiving training in their respective functional areas, including welcome and information services, spectator services, lanugauge support, media and IT and technology – and also had their share of fun with a 3,000 strong Diski dancing session to kick-off training.