Saturday 01 June 2019, 07:30

The volunteers who make Poland 2019 possible

Volunteers prior to the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup group D match between USA and Nigeria
  • Almost 1,000 volunteers have energised the U-20 World Cup

  • The volunteers have been preparing for two months

  • Varied in age and experience, they are united by their passion

If you’re watching the FIFA U-20 World Cup on TV, you may have noticed them. If you’ve been to a match – in Lublin or Lodz, Bydgoszcz or Bielsko-Biala – you’ve surely benefitted from their tireless service.

They are the nearly 1,000 volunteers from all over the continent and beyond making Poland 2019 an unforgettable experience. Media, hospitality, safety and security, transportation and pre-match ceremonies are just a handful of areas where they offer support.

“I decided to volunteer because I was looking for a new challenge,” said Jakub Kotula, the youngest participant in the programme at 19 years old. “I'd never had an opportunity to become part of such events before, so you can say that I've jumped off the deep end. I also wanted to know what the organisation of such a large event looks like from the inside.”

Jakub Kotula is a volunteer in the Organiser's Office at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019

Volunteers participated in training sessions at each host city in April and May, getting to know their cities, stadiums and tasks while integrating as a group. Many of them boasted prior experience at some of the world’s largest sporting events, including the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

For some, Poland 2019 is their first experience of this kind. That includes Tychy-based transportation volunteer Josef Liszka, who at 59 years old also happens to be the oldest volunteer at the tournament.

“I did not have time to volunteer when I was a professional driver,” said Liszka. “I've driven the length and breadth of Europe. When I used to work away from home, it was common for me to return home a month later. Now I'm retired, so I've got more time to watch sports.

“When I heard that my city would host the World Cup for 20-year-olds, I thought it was a good idea to become part of the organisation of the event, and to help show our country to guests from all over the world as well as possible.”

Jozef Liszka is a transportation volunteer at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019

That sense of Polish pride extends all the way to legendary Biało-czerwoni player Zbigniew Boniek, who now leads the Polish FA.

"All of us in Poland are living and breathing this spectacular event," said Boniek. "We are happy with the atmosphere, huge interest of the supporters and their rousing cheers. It was worth organising the World Cup.

"I realised that performances of teams and individual players do not differ much at this level. They all play with their hearts and for the sole purpose of giving it all for their countries. This is football in its most pristine dimension."