Monday 31 October 2022, 06:00

Volunteers seize their chance to shine at FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022™

  • More than 600 volunteers worked on the tournament

  • People from all walks of life volunteered

  • Volunteers provided training before the tournament

When the final whistle blew between Colombia and Spain, and the winner was of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022™ was finally concluded, it marked the end of the playing action on the field for the tournament that began on 11 October. Away from the cameras though, the volunteers at Navi Mumbai's DY Patil Stadium were getting ready to ensure everything for the post-match presentation ceremony was in place. This is just one example of how, for the volunteers who had been involved with the tournament long before the first whistle was blown, their work continued even after the final whistle was blown.

Solomon Ogba, volunteer at the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup

Close to six hundred and fifty volunteers were selected from over seven thousand people who applied to be a part of the tournament. The volunteers across the three venues were provided intensive training and worked closely with the Local Organising Committee (LOC) to ensure all key deliverables were met.

Working under the guidance of the LOC’s Volunteer Management Team supported by the FIFA Volunteer Management Department, for most of them it was the chance to be close to the sporting action, combined with a lifelong passion for football, that drove them to be part of the 20-day tournament. "I love football so much that if you ask me what would be my last wish before life ends, I would say I want to play a game of football. So, there was no way I was going to miss out on this opportunity," replied 23-year-old Solomon Ogba when asked about the reason he decided to volunteer for the tournament at Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium. Born in football-crazy Nigeria, Solomon grew up loving football before higher education necessitated a move to India at the age of 19. A nursing student from Navi Mumbai, Ogba has just graduated and was making plans to move to North America or Europe for further studies when the opportunity came his way. The time with the tournament, however, has got Ogba thinking. “After working here, I am 100 per cent interested in working in football if I get that opportunity,” he added.

"He has reasons as well to be charmed by this world. “I feel working as a volunteer in a tournament like this, you develop skills of cooperation and communication. I’ve seen younger volunteers making efforts to develop those skills. So, it’s a lifetime opportunity,” he explained.

Swati Gada, a volunteer at the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup

In agreement with Ogba was 50-year-old Swati Gada, who has been a volunteer in Goa, one of three host cities for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022. For Gada, who has been living away from her family in Mumbai to be a part of this tournament, her love affair with sports began decades ago when she was in school.

A cricket fanatic, Gada found opportunities to pursue the game when she was young extremely limited. That, however, couldn’t do much to dim the flame of passion for sports in her and after marriage, Gada took it upon herself to impart training to young girls around her in multiple sports. In the last decade, she has not only trained and encouraged young girls to take up sports but also organised local tournaments for them. Currently enrolled in a sports management degree, it was here that she got to know about the opportunity to volunteer for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022. “I would have gone to Bhubaneswar too if I was asked,” said Gada emphasising how keen she was to work with the tournament.

“The overall experience has been great. There is so much that happens behind the scenes to make such tournaments possible that I wasn’t aware of, and now it’s great to be a part of it. It’s been great learning from the younger volunteers at the venue,” she added, talking about her experience. FIFA’s volunteer programme provides an opportunity to people from all walks of life to be a part of its tournaments and learn by working with FIFA officials. Participants not only end up with lifelong memories but also get to witness the sporting action from the closest of quarters.

Volunteers at Goa's Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at the end of a successful tournament

For Kimberly Fernandez, a professional footballer, the chance to be a part of the first FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup in India was an unmissable one, especially because of her participation as a volunteer five years ago at the men’s event. An ongoing Masters degree in sports management meant that she couldn’t be involved full-time with the tournament this year. “I did want to be involved in some way with such a historic tournament, and that’s why I volunteered at the Navi Mumbai venue with the Competitions Team,'' said Fernandez, who has co-founded an organisation that, among other things, encourages young women to take up sports. Talking about her experience with the volunteers for the tournament, FIFA Volunteer Coordinator Amra Kubat said, “We were grateful to have such a dedicated team of volunteers supporting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022. They truly brought the energy and passion with their smiles and positive attitude, putting in countless hours to help us deliver the tournament.”

Kubat concluded: “Volunteers are the heartbeat of all FIFA tournaments and we would like to thank them for their enthusiasm and contributions.”