A small army of volunteers from South Africa and around the world is being readied to assist fans travelling to games.
18,000 volunteers were chosen from nearly 70,000 applicants from 170 countries. Their job is to provide information, directions and translation services to the expected 400,000 fans set to arrive in June.
2,000 volunteers who will be based at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium recently gathered at a convention hall in the city for three days of training.
The highlight of the day’s training is learning the World Cup’s signature dance, the Diski. Named after a local term for football, its steps apparently mimic football players’ best moves.
That’s the detail out of the way. What about the people involved in this initiative?
Scotsman Andrew Drummond has lived in Johannesburg for 44 years. The 74-year-old is already something of a veteran when it comes to helping out at major sporting events. It seems he just couldn’t help himself again.
“I went to Australia for the Olympic Games in 2000 and the best part of that was the volunteers. They were everywhere and they were mainly pensioners, believe it or not. And they were great people. They were wonderful. When I saw this advert that they wanted volunteers [for the 2010 World Cup] I said to my wife, I’m going. I’m going to do this thing.”
Bank worker Robert Nephalama and tourism ambassador Simon Bobbejaan both see the tournament as an opportunity to showcase their country and attract repeat visitors.
“I do believe that I am going to make a difference to those guys that are coming to South Africa,” explained Nephalama. “So that even if the World Cup is over they will feel that they should come [back] because of the experience that we gave them.”
Bobbejaan’s message to visitors is simple: “We are going to make your stay a memorable one. You will come back. And we are looking for you to come back because you are going to experience things that you have never experienced in your country.”
“The volunteer is actually the face of South Africa to anyone who will be coming here for first time,” said Johannesburg World Cup coordinator, Sibongile Mazibuko. They will provide “the smile that says you are welcome.”
The World Cup isn’t all about lining your pockets and explaining away your team’s poor performance during press conferences. At least not for these people.