The Telegraph
Friday , May 9 , 2014
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Duo strike a World Cup goal For the love of football

- Brazil beckons volunteers after two-year selection process

Play will be work for two Calcuttans packing their bags for the Fifa World Cup starting in Brazil next month.

Gopal Ghosh, a 47-year-old professional sports manager living in Behala, and Shrenik Avlani, a 34-year-old media consultant from Kalighat, are among the 15,000 World Cup volunteers chosen from a field of more than 1.5 lakh applicants from 209 countries.

The duo cleared a multi-stage selection process that started in 2012 to fulfil their dream of “being a part of the greatest show on earth”.

“Our job is not to go, watch and enjoy a match but to make the event a spectacular one,” Gopal said. “During Durga Puja, people are involved in several activities, be it cutting fruits, arranging flowers or distribution of bhog. Does anyone do it expecting something in return?”

Not only will the duo have to work for free, they are required to pay for most of their personal requirements in Brazil. The volunteer’s guidebook states: “There will be no salaries or assistance in paying accommodation. No seats will be allocated to volunteers. It is important to understand that you will be working and will not have time to attend as a spectator.”

Shrenik, who has been saving for this trip since the time he sent his application, it’s all about searching for a new experience. “I like sporting events and I also like being in the thick of things. I like meeting people, cultural exchange and I have always wanted to travel to South America,” he said.

Their two-year-long selection process included online written exams, a test of proficiency in English or Spanish and a Skype interview to assess “individual behaviour, attitudes and abilities”.

They received their confirmation in the form of accreditation cards, which will also serve as visas for the trip. The special visas are among the few perks of their assignment, including one free meal a day and a certificate at the end of the event.

Gopal, who has saved Rs 2.5 lakh for the trip, sees the assignment as an extension of his professional life as a sports manager. The 47-year-old had volunteered in the administration department of tournament operations at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. On his return, he was appointed general manager of operations for East Bengal for two years.

“My experience helped me contribute to a resurgent East Bengal,” he said.

In Brazil, Gopal’s role will be that of a liaison officer for the star-studded Spanish team at Curitiba, one of the host cities. Spain is one of the teams he will be supporting along with Argentina. “I will be happiest if (Lionel) Messi gets to lift the trophy!” he said, hastening to add that his “heart goes out to Brazil”.

Shrenik is rooting for Argentina.

Gopal leaves for “my mission” on June 8 while Shrenik will head for Sao Paolo next week.

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