Monday 06 December 2021, 12:00

Mother and son reunited as volunteers meet the trophy

  • Over 1000 volunteers turned out at a special celebration in Doha yesterday

  • spoke to three special individuals on International Volunteer Day

  • We heard about a family reunion and how the FIFA Fan Movement is lending a hand

International Volunteer Day was celebrated in style at the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ yesterday and, with 92 different nationalities represented in this tournament’s programme, international was the operative word.

With Sunday a notional day of rest amid a hectic group-stage schedule, it offered a perfect chance to thank the 5000 volunteers who are proving to be, in the words of FIFA President Gianni Infantino, “the lifeblood” of this tournament. That appreciation was conveyed via a joyful celebration in which cakes and drinks were shared in between photographs with the FIFA Arab Cup trophy.

Over 1000 volunteers converged on the Doha Exhibition Centre to take part in the festivities, and among them were a very special mother and son. The former had spoken to earlier in the week, telling us the heartwarming story of volunteering’s impact on her life and the emotional impending reunion – after three years apart – with her youngest son.

Zimbabwean Rufaro Chindalo explained how the FIFA Arab Cup was bringing the pair back together, with son Kundai having succeeded in his application to become one of the competition’s international volunteers. And that long-awaited moment at the airport, which she’d spent months dreaming of, lived up to all her hopes and expectations.

“It was awesome,” Rufaro said, beaming. “It hadn’t been easy for him to get here - twice he couldn’t catch his flight because of the restrictions back home - and you begin to worry. But at the third attempt he made it here to Qatar and I must thank FIFA and the people here in Qatar for assisting a lot in getting him here.

“He turned 20 last month and I brought 20 roses with me to the airport to welcome him to the country. It was very emotional; a lovely reunion. He’s grown up so much since I saw him last – he’s taller than me now! (laughs) When I saw him I was like, ‘Is this really my son?’”

Volunteer Rufaro Chindalo meets the FIFA Arab Cup trophy.

“I was so happy to see her again,” echoed Kundai. “It had been so long, and I was hoping for this when I applied to be an international volunteer. It was because of my mother that I put my name forward.”

Yet it wasn’t merely the prospect of seeing Rufaro again that inspired him, but her stirring and hugely positive words about the benefits of volunteering. Having spoken of how the experience had turned her from a “caterpillar into a butterfly”, the former teacher – who specialises in sign language – is excited to see her son reap the same benefits.

“Volunteering teaches you so many life skills,” she enthused. “Yes, you give your time. But you get so much more in return, and this will be wonderful for him in terms of learning about things like decision-making, time-management, asserting himself and interacting with other cultures. He will become a better person because of volunteering.”

FIFA Fan Movement members at the FIFA Arab Cup Trophy Event.

Fan Movement represented

While Rufaro is a Team leader in Workforce Management at the Al Janoub and Education City Stadiums, Kundai has been assigned to the position of Fan Support at Al Thumama and Ras Abu Aboud. That same supporter-focused role is being performed by another of the volunteers we heard from: the equally enthusiastic Nassima Boulait.

The Moroccan was part of a sizeable contingent at yesterday’s celebration who were representing not just the volunteering family, but the FIFA Fan Movement.

“This is actually my first tournament as a volunteer – I joined the Fan Movement before signing up - and I’m enjoying more than you can imagine," explained Boulait (back row, far right in the above image). "It’s a special one for me because this is the first FIFA Arab Cup, so it’s a big event for my region and, of course, my own national team is involved. They’re playing really well too!.”

Morocco are indeed excelling, and may yet take home the trophy. But regardless of how the Atlas Lions fare in the knockout rounds, Boulait – like her Zimbabwean friends and colleagues – is assured of leaving the FIFA Arab Cup with memories to last a lifetime.

“It’s such an amazing social experience,” she said, smiling. “I’ve met some friends here from the Fan Movement that, before, I had only ever seen on Zoom calls. The Fan Movement is like a family and that’s true of the volunteers too. It’s an experience I will never forget.”