Some 300 volunteers are lending a helping hand to ensure that Saturday’s Preliminary Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ in St Petersburg is a success. Without them, the event would not be possible.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of a great event like this, especially when it’s happening in your home city,” Irena Zakurdaeva, one of the 300, tells FIFA.com.
A press officer at a local sports complex, the 37-year-old Irene has taken time off to work at the press centre at the Konstantin Palace, the venue for the draw.
Sitting alongside her is Anastasia Povoroznyuk, 23, who was a volunteer at UEFA EURO 2012 in Kiev and the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
“I’ve had a lot of questions from friends and family these days and I’ve told them to go and sign up because it’s a unique experience,” said Anastasia. “One of my good friends has taken my advice already and she’s thanked me for it.”
“A lot of people ask me why I do it if I don’t get paid,” added Anastasia, who said she has especially enjoyed making contacts and new friends over the last few days. “I think what really counts at the end of your life is not the money you have but your experiences and memories.”
Among the volunteers who have travelled to St Petersburg to help out is Tobias Wandinger, a 33-year-old German estate agent who was also on duty at the last three FIFA World Cups and the last two UEFA EURO competitions. As proof of his experience, Tobias’ orange T-shirt bears three little Brazil 2014 badges showing that he speaks German, English and Italian.
A dream opportunity
Thanks to his language skills and his willingness to take on any job, Tobias enjoyed a memorable volunteering stint in Brazil last year.
“My happiest memory was the Final at the Maracana,” he explained. “My job was to lug equipment around, but they needed a German speaker to make announcements over the PA system to the Germany fans and so I ended up in the stand watching my team win the World Cup.”
Both he and his fellow volunteers have been working hard all week to make sure everything is alright on the night, though their preparations for the big occasion began some time ago.
“We had some general training in June followed by a series of sessions on our specific tasks,” said Irene, whose volunteering career began in 1994 at a figure skating competition, a sport she loves. “They’ve also been sending us a lot of information by email, and we even had a football quiz, which I ended up winning!”
As Tobias pointed out, however, experience is not a prerequisite for volunteering: “We’ve all had a first time. It’s just a question of wanting to do it. After all, everyone has something they can offer.”
“There are a lot of events coming up and I’m going to keep on applying for them,” said Anastasia, barely able to conceal her enthusiasm. “There are the next few EURO finals, the FIFA Confederations Cup and, of course, the World Cup at home. It’s a dream!”
If would like to join Anastasia, Tobias and Irene, then keep a close eye on the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia page and social media for news on volunteer registration periods for forthcoming events.