AFCON 2019 volunteers: Helping hand

In sporting events, volunteers are usually the unsung heroes. But they are major players in work that comes with thrills, excitement and challenges by serving people from diverse cultural backgrounds, reports Abeer Anwar

Abeer Anwar , Thursday 11 Jul 2019,
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Volunteers and security
Volunteers and security outside the stadium (Photo: REUTERS)

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) which is being hosted by Egypt from 21 June to 19 July, has so far produced some unforgettable moments, not just on the field but for volunteers helping to make the tournament a success.

Off the pitch, volunteers are the key actors, providing assistance in media, hospitality, protocol, marketing, ticketing, logistics, medical help and fan assistance. Over 3,000 volunteers are deployed for the tournament, mostly students who answered the call when their services were needed.

Al-Ahram Weekly spoke to a few volunteers. Yara Abdullah, 27, was accepted as a media volunteer in AFCON 2019. She had applied on the tournament’s website and was accepted. “After being interviewed, they assigned me to media work in Cairo Stadium. People who want to register for the matches, the press conferences and the mixed zone come to me two days before a match. We started working a week before the competition.”

As to her experience concerning AFCON 2019, Abdullah said, “It is a great event and I think it is marvelous that we can organise such an event in only five months after all the hassle that Egypt went through in the past few years. I enjoy my job very much and I encourage every youth to try to volunteer as it is an amazing experience. You can see behind the scenes and you learn first- hand stuff that you had no idea could happen. I recommend everyone to do so.”

Abdullah had her first experience as a championship volunteer in 2009 in the World Cup U-20 in Egypt. “I was working in Borg El-Arab Stadium and I was chosen as the PA announcer.” In 2013, Abdullah, who is from Alexandria but moved to Cairo two years ago where she has been working in a sports agency, volunteered in the Confederation Cup in Brazil, working in media centres and helping in organising press conferences. Abdullah, who studied media communications in London, also worked in media related matters in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

 “In 2016, I applied for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Brazil and I was accepted and stationed with the Egyptian delegation together with the International Olympic committee (IOC),” Abdullah said.

Ahmed Gamal, 24, working as a volunteer in the 2019 AFCON, is blind. One of the top students in Egypt, Gamal works at the media center. “I am very active on social media so I applied on the competition’s website and to my surprise I was accepted and was asked to sit for an interview. I was chosen to join the media team. I write articles on the tournament’s official website.

“I am a great fan of Liverpool and when I asked about (Liverpool star Sadio) Mane I was invited by the coach to come and watch Senegal train to meet him. I interviewed Mane and I published the interview on the tournament’s website. I follow the matches through my feelings as a footballer. I feel where the ball is. I also follow voices.

“My parents have always encouraged me to be different and try hard and not to surrender to any kind of obstacle,” Gamal said.

Gamal, a graduate of Mass Communication University, is so much into football that he used to play five-a-side blind football for the national team. “I used to write a lot of articles on my account and Facebook page but I did not find the right job yet,” he said.

Aleyeddin Ahmed, 20, is a volunteer at Cairo International Airport. Ahmed got to know about the tournament and volunteering from his friends and decided to join since he had free time during the summer. “I applied and sat for the interview and took a number of training sessions before the tournament. We welcome the teams upon their arrival and guide them to the VIP lounge and also see the teams off to their countries. I am very happy as I feel that everyone is excited about their experience in the competition and the welcome and the warmth provided by the Egyptian people.”

As to Ahmed’s experience as a volunteer, “I have learnt a lot from my experience as I made new friendships and new relationships. I also got to know the airport very well and I feel it is now my second home. I am also very happy with the standard of the other volunteers working with me as they are all well-qualified, knowing three and four languages. I am sure I will keep these new friendships and I will progress in the future.”

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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