Volunteering at the FIFA World Cup: A unique experience
Over 17,000 LOC volunteers are helping at Russia 2018
Range of tasks span 20 different functional areas
John: "At the Luzhniki Stadium I realised that it's not as easy as it looks on television"
Whenever teams are preparing to play at the Luzhniki Stadium, John gets a first-hand account of the goings-on. He witnesses the players chatting to each other before kick-off and senses how the tension gradually increases as a special atmosphere spreads throughout the stadium.
John hails from Colombia and is currently helping as a volunteer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. "I'm responsible for assisting the teams," he said. "I make sure that everything's as it should be in the changing rooms, I accompany the team photographers to the stands and am available for any questions the support staff may have."
David also volunteers at the Luzhniki Stadium. The Englishman's role as media assistant is to ensure journalists have everything they need to report on a match. "I did a few media-related things during my degree but I wanted to get an idea of what goes on at a major tournament," he said.
John and David are just two of a total of 17,040 Local Organising Committee (LOC) volunteers at Russia 2018, having been selected from a record 176,870 applicants. "The volunteers' faces are the first thing the fans see when they arrive," said FIFA President Gianni Infantino, hailing the significance of the Volunteer Programme. "Their smiles are what visitors pick up on."
The volunteers' backgrounds are diverse, ranging from an oil tanker captain to a former footballer and a dragon boat racing world champion. They are united by their love of the game and a willingness to help with great dedication over the course of several weeks.
Of the volunteers, 36 per cent are male and 64 per cent female. Among their number are a grandmother and her grandson, couples and entire families. Ninety-three per cent of the total come from Russia, with the remaining seven per cent made up of people from 112 different countries that travelled to Russia specifically for the tournament.
The Volunteer Programme launching ceremony which took place in Moscow on 1 June
The Volunteer Programme launching ceremony which took place in Moscow on 1 June 2016. Credit: Alexey Druzhinin/Russia's President press-office/TASS
Rinat Dasaev, Carlos Puyol, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, are seen during the launch of the volunteer Campaign for the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Confederations Cup
Rinat Dasaev, Carlos Puyol, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, are seen during the launch of the volunteer Campaign for the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Confederations Cup.
Alongside the initial 32 participating nations, the volunteers form another World Cup team, one that acts with focus and togetherness, as John and Simon attest. "It's one thing to watch a World Cup on television but it's completely different to experience it first hand," said David. "It's a dream come true."
The duo were the recipients of a special honour at the pre-match press conferences of the English and Colombian teams at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, as they posed for photographs with Gareth Southgate and Ashley Young as well as Jose Pekerman and Falcao. That particular experience makes up part of a tapestry of unforgettable moments they have already enjoyed at the tournament.
"There's not a lot that can top being at the Luzhniki Stadium when Russia beat Spain on penalties in the last 16," said David. And as for John's personal highlight: "I had the opportunity to go out and play on the pitch at the Luzhniki. The cameras were on us, there was a helicopter flying overhead and then I realised that it's not as easy as it looks on television."
And while the remaining World Cup teams continue to jostle for a berth in the Final, John and David are both already guaranteed their places at the title-decider in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on 15 July 2018.