Impetus was proud to attend the FIFA Volunteer Program Launch at Glen Eira FC, where several Matildas alongside World Cup Mascot Tazuni delighted fans and acknowledged some incredible contributors to the sport. Kieran Yap reports (10/11/22).
Above: Tazuni – the official World Cup mascot makes its first appearance on Australian soil this week. Image courtesy of FIFA.
The draw has been set, the tickets are rapidly selling and over 1.5 million spectators are expected to fill the stands at the 2023 World Cup.
It is shaping up to be one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Australia and New Zealand are seeking volunteers be a part of a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
Glen Eira FC in Melbourne was the venue for a community volunteer appreciation event, that combined with a launch of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Volunteer program.
The goal is to recruit as many as 5000 volunteers to assist the huge numbers of fans anticipated to attend. Some notable and prolific volunteers were acknowledged at the event and held up as examples.
Spiros Drossos and Maggie Stavrou received warm welcomes for their seven years of volunteer coaching at Glen Eira.
Natalie Brotherston and Michael Jones have both been volunteering at major events since the Sydney Olympics. Jones is currently contributing to the T20 World Cup, and Brotherston has worked at seven international sporting tournaments.
Rishab Mahajan was one of the first to sign up as a volunteer for the 2023 World Cup and his enthusiasm was clear to see by all in attendance.
They were each presented FIFA Volunteer shirts by Matildas Elise Kellond-Knight, Alex Chidiac, Jada Whyman, and Emma Checker.
Legacy 23 Ambassador Kate Jenkins said that the football had long relied on volunteers and that being a part of the World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the game and impact Australian society.
“These clubs run on people who just give their time an energy,” she said from the stage.
“They are also the role models for our kids. They’re the ones who create our community. The 2023 World Cup is the best opportunity not just to promote opportunities for girls in sport, but also opportunities for women and girls across the board.”
The World Cup has big goals off the field, and as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, and a long-time member of the football community, Jenkins sees a chance for a long-lasting legacy.
“The aim for us is that football has the legacy of being the first sport that achieved gender parity. I think we can do it. It is my job to get us there.”
Matildas and Melbourne City defender Emma Checker has seen the changes in the game since her career began. Women’s football has a swell of momentum behind it. But she pointed out that it was not always the case.
When her career began almost 10 years ago, media coverage was almost non-existent. In 2022 the Women’s Euros enjoyed huge crowds and global coverage, culminating in a packed Wembley Stadium. The 2023 World Cup is likely to be even bigger. Ticket sales have already outperformed the 2019 tournament in France.
“When I look at the change in that decade, it makes me realize just how far we’ve come. “On my debut, I barely had a photo. If you walked down the street and said, ‘do you know who The Matildas are?’ people would say ‘who?’
“It has come so far. Having a home game ten years ago would have been in a community park. Now we’re selling out home games. The excitement and the joy that brings me to see that change is massive.
“The young girls that are coming through now don’t necessarily understand how big that change has been.
“Football globally is so big, but it hasn’t always been that way. It’s taken a lot of hard work from a lot of people top get it to where it is. I feel really privileged to be able to witness that progression.
“There’s no more exciting time that now, we’re on our way up, and hosting a World Cup is the biggest opportunity for growth in the sport.
“I think for us in Australia we were already growing… kids, girls and boys the numbers are climbing, and I think with the timing of the men’s World Cup followed by ours at a time when kids are signing up for next season, its massive.
“You can’t not be drawn in, even if you’ve never watched a game. A World Cup draws a crowd.”
That crowd will need support, local knowledge, and friendly faces to help them navigate the two vast countries.
“The simple answer is, we can’t do this without volunteers,” said Checker. “Volunteers make up such a big part of preparing for these tournaments, and how these tournaments are run. I know as a player it’s something that we’re always forever grateful for.
“We know the hard yards that go behind these tournaments. It’s something that is incredibly important, and I would encourage as many people to get involved as possible.”