Russia 2021 a valuable eye-opener for volunteer referees

  • Volunteers make FIFA events special and unforgettable

  • Russia 2021 is providing invaluable experience for all involved

  • FIFA.com speaks to volunteers helping officials pre- and post-match

Volunteers are the heart and soul of any major tournament, transmitting that special World Cup atmosphere to everyone from fans to teams, while helping solve all manner of problems with a big smile. They gain invaluable experience too, especially those who have a passion for the beautiful game. Take 36-year-old Pavel Martynov and Fedor Klygin, 31. Both are referees who signed up to the volunteer programme in order to sample what it is like to be an international match official by assisting the professionals at FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™. “We meet the referees before the match, take them to the dressing room and help them with anything they need," said Fedor. "Once they’ve finished and filled out their paperwork, we accompany them out of the stadium – we show them where to go and make sure they’re able to leave without any hassle." Pavel and Fedor only met for the first time at the tournament but have since found out that they have a lot in common: they love refereeing, are huge fans of Pierluigi Collina, have become enthralled with beach soccer and are ready to go to great lengths to develop the sport in their local areas. Fedor has been a football referee at various levels for 15 years. “I became interested when I saw the Russian Premier League on TV," he said. "I went and enrolled on a course, and I’ve loved doing it ever since. I stumbled across beach soccer by chance, but I was instantly captivated by this amazing and dynamic sport. I’ve even officiated a couple of Russian Cup ties.”

Pavel has never presided over a professional match but regularly referees junior and senior football. “I helped organise tournaments for kids and the over-60s where I live in Ulyanovsk, and it was always difficult to find officials," he said. "So I had a go myself and enjoyed it.” Speaking to the experts at the Beach Soccer World Cup has helped Fedor and Pavel see the profession in a new light. “I’ve chatted to Lukasz Ostrowski from Poland, home ref Roman Borisov, Vitalij Gomolko from Lithuania and Japan’s Yuichi Hatano," said Pavel. "They’ve opened my eyes to things you’d never even think of. "Perhaps the main thing we’ve learnt is that anyone can become an international referee. Yes, you need an in-depth knowledge of the rules, an understanding of the game, but every official has their own style. If you really love what you do, you can reach a high level. It’s accessible to everyone.” Pavel and Fedor are not just referees, they also love organising football tournaments back home in Voronezh and Ulyanovsk, and both are excited to implement what they have learnt in Moscow. “The emotions have been incredible - it’s been so cool to get a behind-the-scenes look," said Fedor. "We’ve not just seen the referees at work but how the stadium is prepared, how everything is organised for the spectators. "We’ll try to pass on everything we’ve seen here when we return home. It might even give us the impetus we need to help develop beach soccer in our local areas.”

2021 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Volunteers Pavel Martynov and Fedor Klygin pose with referees.