For two Johannesburg youth, volunteering for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup tournament will provide more than just an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, writes Simangaliso Zwane.
Against a backdrop of thousands of enthusiastic, committed and proud youths who have been selected as volunteers for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup appetiser, SA2010 spoke to two youths from diverse backgrounds who share a common passion for South Africa and the African continent.
Shabnam Joogub, 27, and Keoagile Moichela, 21, from Johannesburg may not have much in common, but their shared passion and like-minded attitude towards helping South Africa host one of the best FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments, have seen them strike up friendship on the first day of the volunteer training programme.
Ms Joogub, a fulltime employee and MBA student said juggling between her many commitments and volunteering will not be an easy task, but she is up to it.
She said she will be making many sacrifices such as taking two weeks off from work for the training and more time during the tournament.
However, she sees this as an opportunity to help South Africa host a successful tournament, a chance to interact with her community and to show the world that South Africa is a world class country in Africa.
"It's a special feeling because you feel like you are finally getting an opportunity to do something for your community, for your country, because you know it's such a wonderful place and you want to show the world that this is a world-class country that they can come and enjoy," she said.
Ms Moichela, an unemployed youth from Johannesburg hopes the opportunity to volunteer for the FIFA Confederations Cup will develop her skills and open the doors for future employment opportunities.
"I am proud to serve my country, I love South Africa and when I heard that volunteers were being recruited I did not hesitate because I knew that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stand up and do something.
"I am sure that through helping South Africa and the African continent host a successful tournament I will be able to develop skills that will help me become employable in future," she said.
Ms Moichela said the response by young people towards the volunteer programme is proof that youth apathy in South Africa is a thing of the past.
"The perception that South Africa's youth is carefree and clueless about what is happening in our country is misdirected because I feel that the number of young people selected as volunteers is proof that when given a chance we do not disappoint and I have no doubt that we will do our country proud by performing our volunteer duties to the best of our abilities," she said.
The FIFA Confederations Cup has become a prominent feature on the FIFA calendar. The 2009 edition of the tournament will feature host South Africa, African champions Egypt, World champs Italy, European giants Spain, South American champions Brazil, Asian champions Iraq, CONCACAF champions United States and Oceania champions New Zealand.
The tournament will be co-hosted by four South African cities namely Johannesburg, Pretoria, Mangaung, and Rustenburg. This will also be a chance for both fans and FIFA delegates to get a feel for the stadiums to be used for the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament.
The 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup will be used to test South Africa's state of readiness to host the much anticipated world cup.
Volunteers have featured prominently in helping South Africa host major events over the years - more recently the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup preliminary and the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup draws.
Volunteer Programme Manager of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee, Onke Mjo said volunteers will be the backbone of the FIFA events to be hosted in South Africa.
"These volunteers are truly going to be the face of the tournament and will be the lifeblood of the events. We expect them to go about their duties with pride and enthusiasm as they assist visitors and locals during the tournaments," she said.
For Ms Joogub and Ms Moichela, the time to be part of history has come, for thousands other aspiring volunteers who were not selected for the Confederations Cup, all is not lost as more volunteers will be needed for the forthcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Information about the 2010 FIFA World Cup volunteers recruitment drive will be published in the mainstream media in due course.