From Bangalore to Brazil, and back

  • There was one application every ten seconds in the opening 24 hours for India 2017's Volunteer Programme

  • Vikas Srinivasan applied to volunteer at India 2017, and also volunteered at 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™

  • The 37-year-old took 40 days off work and travelled 15,000km to take part at Brazil 2014

With football fever gripping India this year as the country gears up to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, the nation's inaugural FIFA event, it was little surprise that the Volunteer Programme for the tournament saw fervent interest. However, even those organising India 2017 were taken aback when more than 8000 applications flew in over the opening 24 hours, which effectively meant one person applied to be a volunteer every ten seconds - a truly astounding statistic.

One of those thousands of Indians who applied is Vikas Srinivasan, a senior category manager working in Bangalore. Unlike the majority of Indians who will see a FIFA tournament up close for the first time in October, he has already attended one. In 2014, he headed to Brazil for the World Cup, as a volunteer.

Recalling the experience in Brazil, which saw him involved in handling the transportation requirements of players, VIPs, referees, FIFA & Local Organising Committee (LOC) staff and media at the stadium, Vikas was enthusiastic.

"Being part of the biggest event in the world is an excellent experience," Vikas said. "I got to meet volunteers from many different countries and of course Brazil too. I even had the opportunity to train international volunteers after my own training. I learned how FIFA and the LOC plans and executes everything so precisely. They go into the minutest details of everything. Also, the volunteer uniforms were such a treat."

One would think that it is certainly not easy to pack up your bags and leave for another country, especially one almost 15,000km away. The 37-year-old took 40 days off from work to travel and volunteer for the event but said that it wasn’t difficult to do so.

"The selection process began in September 2012 and from that very moment, I started saving up for my holiday," Vikas said. "Since I am a passionate footballer and this was my dream, it was not difficult to convince my manager."

Footballing passion Speaking about what motivated him to volunteer his services for the World Cup, he added, "being a passionate footballer made me want to contribute to the game in some way or another. The love for the game took me to Brazil. This blend of the World Cup and Brazil happens only once in a lifetime, and I couldn’t afford to miss that opportunity."

Indians will get a taste of the first FIFA event when the U-17 World Cup begins on 6 October across six venues.

"When I was in Brazil, it was announced that the U-17 World Cup would be coming to India," Vikas smiled. "From that moment, I wanted to be a part of it." He kept track of the preparations for the tournament on and applied for the Volunteer Programme on the day of its launch.

Just like the rest of the nation awaiting the first FIFA tournament in India, Vikas says he is "very excited" and is "waiting for the sleeping giants to wake up faster".

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