World Cup volunteers put through their paces by

2010-03-15 08:48

A ripple of excitement courses through the crowd of about 2000

people, who have been sitting sagely all afternoon in Johannesburg’s Sandton

Convention Centre, watching video presentations.

Friday was the first day of training for some of the volunteers

selected to help out at the football World Cup in South Africa.

After three hours of promotional films about the importance of the

World Cup and its significance for the young South African republic, things are

about to get physical.

Jumping to their feet, rows of mostly young men and women push back

their chairs and start limbering up to learn the Diski - a dance routine named

after a local slang term for football, which has been specifically created for

the Cup.

Standing at a lectern on a podium at the front of the hall, a

choreographer wearing a yellow South African football jersey takes them through

the drill.

“First you trap the (imaginary) ball between your legs and count to

four, and then you kick it four times and then cross it,” she says,

demonstrating the first part of the routine, which ordinary people are shown

performing at work, at home and in the street in South African Tourism ads but

most locals have yet to master.

Over the next 30 minutes, the sea of volunteers is cajoled giggling

and panting through a series of classic football moves.

Dribbling past an opponent is known as the samba while the act of

hunching your shoulders and catching the ball with your back is called a Table

Mountain after Cape Town’s flat-topped icon.

Wrong-footed by the quick succession of steps, some of the less

lithe volunteers flop back into their chairs half-way through and wait for the

next part of the training - a World Cup quiz.

What does FIFA stand for, the MC wants to know. A few hands shoot

up but it takes a French-speaking Democratic Republic of Congo native to get the

title of the Swiss-based global football body exactly right.

The training in Sandton regrouped the 2200 volunteers who will be

stationed at the city’s Ellis Park stadium - one of two World Cup stadiums in

the city.

“I want to see exactly what all this football thing is about. As a

lady,” said Evelyn Lekganyae, at 46 one of the older volunteers (the oldest is a

78-year-old man from Port Elizabeth) explaining why she applied to be a


The mother of two comes from Tembisa, a township about a 30-minute

ride in a minibus taxi from the town’s business district, where the training was


Lekganyae has been out of work since being made redundant from her

job as a secretary two years ago and says she cannot afford World Cup tickets,

which start at 20 dollars for locals.

A keen football fan, Lekganyae, who wore her son’s red Manchester

United jersey and a matching red woollen hat to the training, will be directing

fans to their seats at Ellis Park during six games in June and July.

“I like it when they all stand up and shout,” she confides.

For Arnold Moyo, 28, the World Cup is a second chance to see his

favourite side, Brazil, in action when they take on North Korea at Ellis Park on

June 20.

Moyo, who lives in inner-city Johannesburg, volunteered at the

eight-nation FIFA Confederations Cup or “Championship of Champions” last year,

which Brazil won.

“It’s just a passion,” he says, smiling.

The tasks for which a total of 18,000 volunteers have been selected

range from guiding spectators through the stadium turnstiles to driving FIFA

officials to and from the airport and issuing media with their


Apart from Ellis park, volunteers at Mbombela stadium in the

north-eastern city of Nelspruit also completed their initial training at the

weekend. Volunteers in other cities are due to be trained by end of April.

The 3,000 volunteers who will be coming from overseas, some of whom

will bring experience of volunteering at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the 2008

Beijing Olympics or even the just-ended Vancouver Olympics, will be trained over

the internet.

The volunteers receive a stipend of R100 a day. None of their

travel costs are covered.

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