Friday 11 August 2023, 03:00

Eden Park volunteer addicted to serving his community

  • Omar Dada is volunteering at his third FIFA World Cup event

  • The Aucklander has also worked at cricket and rugby World Cup events

  • Dada says the community needs more people to give up their time

Omar Dada from Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau does not let any major event pass through his city without getting into the action as a volunteer. The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ is the third FIFA tournament Dada has been part of after previously volunteering at the U-20 World Cup in 2015 and at last year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

WoolIam the official FIFA U-20 World Cup mascot entertains the crowd prior to the FIFA U-20 World Cup Group A match between New Zealand and Ukraine

During the rugby season, Dada is a familiar face at Eden Park, pointing people arriving from Kingsland train station to the correct entry from his high chair at Gate A. “I consider this my home. I welcome people to the stadium in Māori but also in Samoan and Tongan because we have a very diverse community and our fanbase is mainly from the Pacific Islands,” says Dada who adds that the All Blacks have not lost a match at Eden Park since he became part of the furniture in 2011.

Omar Dada at Education City in Qatar

During the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the serial volunteer has been part of the VIP guest operations team which ensures the high-profile visitors have a good experience at the stadium. “The VIP area is very interesting" says the mathematics teacher who is proud to be rubbing shoulders with FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “I have not spoken to him yet, but hope to speak to him when he gets back here,” smiles Dada who started volunteering when he became “too long in the tooth” to continue coaching. “Our community needs people like me to give up their time. I give up my time for anything I can volunteer for. My weekends are your weekends.”

Volunteers Pose with FWWC23 Trophy - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

Dada is a self-confessed football devotee but had little opportunity to fulfil his sporting potential as a youngster growing up in South Africa. “I grew up in the Apartheid era, and as a non-white person, I didn’t really have the chance to play football there.” The experience in Dada’s youth did not diminish his love for the beautiful game. “Football is a game of passion and a game that brings people together. It is a game that makes people excited and makes us sad. People love that changing emotion. We can get away for an hour-an-a-half from our daily life and enjoy football.” Dada also noted how Kiwis have been infected by the football bug. “After that first game: bang! People who normally don't watch football are now hooked. At my school, teachers are coming to me to talk about the game who had never spoke to me about the sport before” says Dada, adding that women’s football deserves and needs the focus it is currently receiving.

New Zealand fans show their support during the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group A match between New Zealand and Philippines at Wellington Regional Stadium

“This World Cup is giving them that attention, especially in New Zealand where we think rugby is the main sport, not realising that football is the world sport.” With only two games left at Eden Park, Dada is already looking ahead to future opportunities and is dreaming of a role at the FIFA World Cup in 2026. “My wife Raeesa has also been volunteering in the VIP area at Eden Park and she wants to come with me to Mexico, the US and Canada in 2026, so we hope we can get a volunteer role there as well” he concluded.