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The heart and soul of Qatar 2022: 20.000 volunteers help the FIFA World Cup work seamlessly

32 teams, 64 matches, over two million fans in the stands, and a show that is watched by over five billion people in the world. It is a huge undertaking for every country that is trying to host the FIFA World Cup. But like any other event of this magnitude, it could not be done without the help of good-hearted people that are doing their best to ensure everything works.

Yes, it is about the volunteers that are widely opening their arms and helping everybody, from the fans that are trying to reach the stadiums, to the media taking part in the tournament or the players and the staff of the participating teams with any request that might pop up.

According to both FIFA and the Local Organising Committee in Qatar, some 60.000 interviews were conducted to select roughly 20.000 volunteers who are working in and out of the eight Qatar 2022 stadiums ensuring that everything works seamlessly.

The task of bringing together the largest volunteer force in Qatar’s history began in March with an exhaustive screening, testing, and interview process, evaluating the best candidates from 420,000 applicants from around the world. The selected volunteers represent a spectacularly diverse mix of 160 nationalities, drawn from all walks of life, ranging in age from 18 to 77.

“It’s like entering university and starting a new career at the same time. This is the crucial time when the volunteers begin to understand the massive scale of the event and their individual responsibilities. We try to balance this by providing them with the skills and resources they need to perform their duties, and just as importantly, we want each volunteer to have the feeling that they are part of a 20,000-member family. A big team with one goal and one heart,” said Rasha Al Qarni, Workforce and Administration Director, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

With such a huge challenge on their hands and so many things needing to fall in the right place, an extensive training session was created in a close, tightly-knit relationship between the state Qatar and FIFA across 45 functional areas of the tournament to prepare trainees for any of the 30 roles they will fulfil as official FIFA World Cup volunteers.

The 20,000 volunteers were assigned various tasks in hotels, airports, hospitals, metro stations, and stadiums to provide support during the world’s largest football tournament. They were asked to work at least 10 days in six-to-eight-hour shifts before and during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The training period was a mixed one, combining face-to-face instructions for the locally-based Qatari volunteers, e-learning for non-Qatari residents, in-venue training, covering general topics such as cultural sensitivity and health and safety, as well as technical areas such as stadium operations and accreditation.

“To develop a training system to support 20,000 volunteers working across every functional area of the tournament was a challenge, but the innovative e-learning platform gave us a program that was both diverse and flexible. From previous World Cups, we found that volunteers were most grateful for the ability to explore and refresh their knowledge and the online modules support this,” said FIFA Director of Services Lisa Pennington.

Before the start of the tournament, the Volunteer Hub in Doha hosted more than 300 in-person training sessions stretching over 1.300 hours in October, while in November the trainees moved in teams to their assigned stadiums or venues for venue-specific training, which continued before the start of the tournament, which saw hosts Qatar play against Ecuador.

The FIFA 2022 volunteering programme is just another piece of the puzzle that Qatar put together before the FIFA World Cup. While FIFA describes them as “essential to the joyful and friendly atmosphere of the FIFA World Cup and provides incredible support to the operational delivery of the event. They will create memories that will last a lifetime for fans, players, media, Qatar and the world – as well as for themselves.”

But the truth is that they are the heart and soul of the competition, the first persons to call for any information and queries fans or media need during the FIFA World Cup.

But they also make some experiences for life and proudly say that they ensured the great organization of such a huge event. And that, in itself, is a huge merit for everyone involved.

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