x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emirati volunteers ‘essential’ for Under 17 World Cup

Emirati volunteers are set to gain valuable experience in FIFA’s U-17 World Cup taking place in the UAE next month.

The Under 17 World Cup which begins in the UAE next month is set to be a huge success – thanks to hundreds of Emirati volunteers.

Emirates Foundation will provide more than 250 local volunteers, with Mohammed bin Bdoua, tournament director of the local organising committee, describing the project as the biggest he has undertaken.

“Although we have more than 600 employees working on the event we found a crucial need for Emirati volunteers,” said Mr bin Bdoua.

“It’s the first time I’ve been involved in a tournament of this size but our preparations are going excellent and will be even better with the volunteers on board.”

Mr bin Bdoua said that the UAE’s previous experience in hosting Fifa events, such as the Under 20 World Cup in 2003, the Beach Soccer World Cup in 2009, and the Club World Cup, in 2009 and 2010, not only illustrates the experience the country has in hosting the tournaments but also the confidence in which Fifa has in the Emirates’ capabilities.

With the tournament’s first matches to kick-off in a few weeks the short notice the Emirates Foundation was given to provide personnel is proving to be a challenge.

“Ideally for a tournament of this scale we would like to have months in preparation time to ensure we provide the best selection of volunteers and the highest level of training for them,” said Maytha Al Habsi, chief programmes officer at the Emirates Foundation.

However, Mrs Al Habsi said that she was confident the foundation would be able to meet the tournament’s requirements as she had become accustomed to working under short timeframes.

“We are often given short timeframes which provides its challenges, but we always manage in the end. But in the long run we hope others begin to understand that time is needed to achieve the highest quality of results.”

After providing volunteers for numerous sports events such as Abu Dhabi’s Formula One Grand Prix as well as the Club World Cup, Mrs Al Habsi said Takatof, the foundation’s leading programme responsible for social volunteering, has a wealth of experience in international sporting events to draw from.

“With a database of more than 32,000 volunteers participating in different programmes across the country we have vast resources of youths to call upon.”

One of the 250 Emirati volunteers who will be supporting the tournament next month is Jwaher Al Khalifa, 17.

Having been involved with Takatof for almost a year, Jwaher’s volunteering experience will be utilised at the World Cup as a leading volunteer when she heads 30 volunteers.

“My team will be in charge of ticketing and directing the audience to their seats.”

After working the Qasr Al Hosn festival and the Abu Dhabi Terry Fox run this year, she says volunteering has given her confidence in communication and the opportunity to be the leader she always new she could be.

“I didn’t know what I wanted from Takatof in the beginning but have benefited a lot from it.”

Having graduated from high school a year early, Jwaher spends her days as a student at Sorbonne University studying French.

“As soon as I’m done with university I go straight to Takatof and only make it home at 10pm after a 13-hour day.”

She said that although she reached home tired she was proud that every minute of her day was spent in a good way.

Assuring volunteers a beneficial experience is a must according to Mrs Al Habsi.

“Through training and careful placement we guarantee meaningful participation to all the youth.

“We are committed to not wasting the volunteers time and through knowledge building and the numerous learning experiences the youths will receive skills and experience which will benefit them throughout their lives.”

Some of the areas in which the volunteers will support the tournament will include involvement with the event’s public relations and medical committee where they will be able to put use to the skills learned at Takatof such as CPR training.

“The UAE has given so much to us, more people should give back,” said Jwaher.

“Its great when you are giving yourself, not for money, but for yourself. I hope all Emiratis decide to volunteer,” she said.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae