While the on-field action draws the crowds, it is the thousands of hard working volunteers busy in the background, making sure that each match runs with operational precision and professionalism, that should also be awarded a trophy.
Close to 70,000 people applied for volunteer positions when applications first opened last year and while only 18,000 got the job, the extraordinary number of applicants shows South Africa’s enthusiasm for lending a helping hand for the historic tournament.
Having gone through the rigorous selection process and the training sessions, the eager volunteers are now able to show that they mean business with the World Cup now in full swing.
Working in various fields such as transport, hospitality, media, accreditation and marketing, it is the World Cup volunteers – drawn from both South Africa and abroad – that are at the true heart of South Africa 2010.
Rustenburg volunteer, Obakeng Mosetlhe, explains how it feels to be involved.
“Its great to be a volunteer because you are an ambassador for your country, so everything you have to do you have to do it perfectly and with a smile. It’s a great thing to spend my time here. I think the volunteers are doing well here in Rustenburg, and especially in my department, hospitality.”
Obakeng is stationed close to the turnstiles where he waits eagerly to do his job.
“I work with VIPs, I have to welcome them and show them where to go and where they have to sit during the game.”
Kokestso and Liyanda are two students who entered the volunteer programme together. The girls talk excitedly of how they came to apply.
“We were sitting, fooling around in class and we came across the FIFA website. We saw them advertising volunteer applications so we decided to do it. At that point it was for fun, we weren’t sure if they were going to reply. We looked at all the divisions and were considering hospitality because we’ve done hospitality before. But then we saw that they were looking for media volunteers and we thought that is what we want to do,” said the two students whose job it is to ensure that the media covering the tournament are given the best service possible.
Kokestso and Liyanda work inside the media centre tent and stay there for long hours. Despite this, they look forward to coming to work every morning.
“You know with all jobs you get your ups and downs but most of the time its fun. If anything it gives us a lot of experience, and I can put it on my CV. We went into it for the experience.”
And while they may not know it, the large number of visiting spectators are noticing their strong contribution to the World Cup.
Graham Long travelled from New Zealand to be to take part in the World Cup. Looking quite at home in the nippy weather he explained how he has experienced the World Cup volunteers.
“This is the third time I am attending a match. I have been to one at Soccer City, one at Loftus and now here in Rustenburg. The volunteers at all of them have been outstanding. They all seem very happy. They always have a smile on their face. They should be proud of themselves for helping to make this World Cup as successful as possible.”