Volunteers ready for World Cup

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Durban- Football teams have started arriving; fans are finalising their party plans and South Africa is brimming with pride with just days to go to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

But another group of people who are getting ready to get down to some serious business are the volunteers who will play a pivotal role in the World Cup.

Danjay Kassie is just one of more than 1 000 volunteers who will be providing assistance during the tournament, and is more than ready to get the ball rolling.

When a shell-shocked Kassie received a call that said he was selected as a volunteer and had to make himself available for training, his first reaction was: "Did they get the right number?"

He applied in 2009 because he wanted to be a part of the World Cup but not just as a fan who went to a match. "I wanted to be a part of the process. I want to tell my grandchildren that when South Africa hosted the World Cup, I was there in a different way."

Kassie feels that everyone would be able to say that - however, for him it's more important to have played a role that would contribute to the success of the event.

The Durban resident beams with national pride. "I was never one of those people who doubted that we could host the World Cup. Never! I had every faith that our country has what it takes to host a successful World Cup."

Kassie added that when visitors come to South Africa, they will be in for a treat.

"The fans will be pleasantly surprised and all the negative media reports will be proved wrong. They will see just how freely they can move around. Also, the pride of the city - the Moses Mabhida Stadium will allow fans to enjoy an electric atmosphere," he said.

As a volunteer, Kassie feels that having an opportunity to showcase South Africa, volunteers will need to have patience and understanding.

"We are brand ambassadors and we must have a passion for this job. I say bring it on - let's get the football stars to be star struck by Durban," said Kassie.

And this passion is exactly what is needed, according to LOC volunteer programme manager Onke Mjo.

"It is humbling to know that there are so many people that are willing to give of their time, skills and experience for free in order to be part of making history and being part of a successful world event," said Mjo who stepped into her challenging role in 2006.

Volunteers, who Mjo considers the heart and soul of the tournament, had to undergo training in their respective provinces in the past couple of months and were trained in their designated fields.

Volunteers will support all the event operations from stadiums, to airports, hotels, base camps, fan parks and information services.

Phoenix resident, Khayni Gama, said this for her was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Even at the interview and training stages, Gama said the experience thus far has already taught her so much.

"I wasn't sure that I was going to be selected but just decided to believe and hope for the best. When I was selected, it was a dream come true for me," said Gama.

She said when FIFA President Sepp Battler made the announcement in 2004, she never thought that she could be a part of the World Cup in the manner that she will soon enjoy.

The avid Orlando Pirates, Manchester United and Bafana Bafana fan said the World Cup will be an excellent test for South Africa.

"While it will be an opportunity for South Africa to show the world what we can do, it is also a chance for us to be proudly South African. It will be a time when so many cultures will merge on our soil," said Gama.

She added that it will take some South Africans, who are not used to mixing with tourists, out of their comfort zones.

"Apart from the financial implications for the country, it will also give some of us a chance to interact with foreigners. It will allow us to show what a warm nation we really are," said Gama.

Both Kassie and Gama, who will be volunteering in the logistics and administrative sections respectively, feel that no matter what Bafana Bafana manage to achieve in the World Cup, they have done enough to unite South Africans.

"As you can see Bafana Bafana is a rainbow team and has got all South Africans behind them. We just have to continue cheering them on," said Gama.

If this duos' enthusiasm is anything to go by, then Mjo's job as far as managing her team responsible for selection and training, has been done.

"It is just not possible to implement a big event like the world cup with just a few hands, thus volunteers are untouchably a key factor to the success of the event," said Mjo.