I will try to put into words an experience that I have longed to be a part of. A FIFA Women’s World Cup. I dreamt of this when I played competitive soccer, convinced I would have a shot. A heartbreaking season with a bad coach and I gave up. There are some days that I regret it; wondering where my life would be if I had continued to play soccer at the level I was at. I am not saying I was the best player; far from it. But I worked hard, I trained harder and I loved the sport.
My excitement started to build when the Women’s World Cup was announced in Canada. And lo and behold, my city was one of the host cities! A few months ago, in September, I was looking over the website when I noticed a space that asked for volunteers. I clicked on it, submitted my information and forgot about it. Until. I got an email, asking me for some additional information. I quickly responded.
A few weeks after that, another email. Asking for my availability for a phone interview. My heart was pounding so fast. I quickly responded.
I had my interview with Diane, the volunteer manager. She was wonderful. She asked for my interests, my background, and my areas of expertise, languages spoken and my love of travel. After this phone call, a few day after, I received an official offer to volunteer. I quickly responded YES! I would be a volunteer at FIFA!
Fast forward a few weeks; an orientation at the stadium we would be using; a behind the scenes tour of the place; and meeting our fellow volunteers. We were the protocol team. And we were bad-ass.*
Finally. Game day. Our first day was a double-header game. Norway vs Thailand at 1:00 p.m. Germany vs. Cote d’Ivoire at 4:00 p.m. We were so lucky to get free tickets to the game and I quickly texted my friends and family for their interest. I was volunteering until 4:00. As it was our first day, there were a lot of things to be ironed out. Luckily it all went smoothly, including a wonderful encounter with an ambassador, decked out in his country’s colours, so excited to be there.
I went to the 4:00 game. My niece and nephews were so excited to be there, especially since they had picked Germany as their team. Imagine their glee and excitement when their team won 10-0. Imagine my excitement and pride that my 2 year old niece had seen a FIFA game. Imagine my niece’s excitement that she got to eat candy and popcorn. The excitement was overwhelming and I couldn’t wait for the rest of the tournament.
The energy from the Thai fans was incredible.
Games would follow. Norway vs. Germany. Thailand vs. Cote d’Ivoire. Mexico vs. France. Korea vs. Spain. Sweden vs. Germany. England vs. Norway. USA vs. China. Each day brought a new challenge; a new volunteer post. I drove golf carts. I met ambassadors. I met FIFA officials. I joked with our protocol officer from FIFA that I wanted a job there. I became part of the Hoser team. (Trademark pending)
On our last day, we set up the Germany vs. France game in our volunteer lounge.
We were hosting USA vs. China at 7:30 p.m. That day was bittersweet. All our hard work was coming to an end. We took hundreds of pictures and danced the can-can on the field as we watered it down.
The game was bitterly fought and won by the USA. (SAD FACE) Afterwards, as a sweet surprise, the volunteers were brought onto the field. That sense of accomplishment was probably on par with that of the American team. (KIDDING) But it was just an amazing moment to share with people who I became quite close with.
This experience was really like no other. We got awesome FIFA Adidas swag. I met some amazing volunteers; women who inspired me and became a sounding board for my worries. I met people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I watched inspirational athletes play my favorite game. I had just a wonderful time. There aren’t enough adjectives to explain. My friends would rave about how happy I seemed; I spent hours after game days bouncing around, high on FIFA fumes** and volunteer love.
A VIP (Thanks!) gave me and a friend his tickets to the game so Angelina and I went down to watch China play USA. Guess who we were cheering for?
Over the weekend, we were tasked with take down. I stole some posters, I’m not going to lie. They decorate my office and remind me of this signficiant time. My ticket stubs are taped to my computer. While I am sure that a FIFA World Cup for the athletes is such an incredible accomplishment, I’m glad I get to share in their joy. It’s a few days after. I am wearing my track pants that I got. I took down my volunteer schedule. I had a ceremonially burning with my coworkers and my tears fueled its flames.
Our volunteer appreciation party was held a few days after the final day. We toasted to our success, watched Germany vs. USA and danced. I met a hockey player (according to my friends, that was really cool – I don’t really follow hockey) and just had a blast. It was a nice time.
So go. Volunteer at FIFA World Cup. Watch women’s soccer. Be inspired. Try to get free swag. You can do this.
*I have decided that we are, so just go with it.
** Not a new drug I promise. But saying stench conveys a different meaning.