If all of them travel, there could be an India XI at the World Cup finals in South Africa next month. One that will be part of the 33rd team without which no World Cup is complete, the volunteers.
Eleven Indians are among the 15000 volunteers for football’s quadrennial showpiece, which is going to Africa for the first time. This was confirmed to HT by a spokesperson of the 2010 World Cup Organising Committee.
One of the volunteers is connected with East Bengal. Gopal Ghosh, 45, joined the 90-year-old club last week as General Manager, Operations. “To say that this is a dream-come-true would be an understatement,” said the former deputy manager of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Ghosh will be at Soccer City in Johannesburg, which hosts the opener between South Africa and Mexico on June 11, the final one month later and six more games including a round of 16 tie and a quarter-final. He will assist with administrative support, one of the 15 functional areas for which volunteers were sought. In an e-mail to HT, the FIFA Media team said responsibilities for volunteers in the administration section include supporting venue coordinators, assisting departments such as broadcasting and finance, among other things.
Volunteers, said Ghosh, will have to arrange their passage to South Africa, but will be paid a stipend of 100 rand (Rs 600) for each working day. They will also receive 120 rand (Rs 710) daily for meals and refreshments while on duty. Before they start though, there is a 677-page manual to go through.
Ghosh plans to go “six-seven days” before the start and will be released from responsibilities “in the middle of July”.
Applications for volunteers opened on July 20, 2009. By the time they closed, on August 31, 2009, FIFA, according to the OC spokesperson, received 67,999 entries. To be eligible, candidates needed to be above 18 as of March 2010 have good English language skills.
As part of the selection process, Ghosh was interviewed at the South African Consulate in Mumbai last February. Successful candidates were intimated late last month. From accreditation through administration, the success of a World Cup also hinges on how efficient and pleasant the team of volunteers are, and this time there will be 11 Indians in the mix.