They are there to lend a help­ing hand to the spec­ta­tors,

The Lo­cal Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee (LOC) has picked 17,040 vol­un­teers — nearly 2,000 more than Brazil 2014 — from 112 coun­tries.

Sportstar - - COVER STORY - AASHIN PRASAD

thereby mak­ing the view­ing of matches at the sta­dia a plea­sur­able ex­pe­ri­ence. Yes, we are re­fer­ring to the vol­un­teers and speak to three of them from In­dia.

All eyes will be on Rus­sia for the next one month as it hosts the FIFA World Cup for the very first time. Ir­re­spec­tive of its own on­field per­for­mance, its goal will be to en­sure a smooth and hitch­free tour­na­ment. To make that hap­pen, the Lo­cal Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee (LOC) has picked 17,040 vol­un­teers — nearly 2,000 more than Brazil 2014 — from 112 coun­tries. Among them will be 31 vol­un­teers of In­dian ori­gin, 23 men and eight women, who will be per­form­ing 10 dif­fer­ent vol­un­teer func­tions across as many host cities.

Richik Sengupta, from spec­ta­tor services, will be among the vol­un­teers who will be see in ac­tion when the tour­na­ment kick­soff at the Luzniki Sta­dium in Moscow on June 14. Richik’s func­tion would in­volve tend­ing to the re­quests of spec­ta­tors, guid­ing them to their seats and re­quest­ing prompt med­i­cal help if needed and en­sur­ing that they take home a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence. The 25­yearold is a res­i­dent Rus­sian whose fam­ily be­longs to West Ben­gal. Pur­su­ing his PHD in Math­e­mat­ics, his en­tire ed­u­ca­tion is funded by the Rus­sia State.

Mithila Pathak, 20, is ea­ger to make the most of her ex­pe­ri­ence. She will be based in Nizhny Novgorod, and will be in­volved in spec­ta­tor ser­vice to Ar­gen­tini­ans, English

and Swedish fans, among oth­ers. “It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that even though this is our work for the du­ra­tion of the World Cup, for them it is a once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity to en­joy the at­mos­phere and their favourite sport, live,” says Mithila, who moved from Pune in 2015 to pur­sue a Doc­tor of Medicine (DM) de­gree. She is keen on com­ing face­to­face with the na­tional teams of Ar­gentina and Eng­land but is aware that she will need to fight her urge to take out her note­books or phone in their pres­ence, while on duty.

An­other med­i­cal stu­dent from Nizhny, Vish­wanath Iyer, will also need to ex­er­cise sim­i­lar re­straint when he is amidst the fa­mous names he grew up watch­ing.

An ar­dent Arse­nal sup­porter, he will be work­ing as a chap­er­one for the med­i­cal and dop­ing con­trol teams dur­ing the matches. For him, this is a once in a life­time op­por­tun­ ity which he couldn’t re­ject. “I have my eyes on the Ar­gentina game (June 21). Ear­lier this year, I man­aged to watch Lionel Messi in the flesh dur­ing a Copa del Rey match against Va­len­cia dur­ing my va­ca­tion to Spain. I re­alised that watch­ing him live is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from watch­ing him on TV,” says the 24­year­old.

Most mod­ern­day foot­ballers have shown their dis­plea­sure to­wards ran­dom drug­test­ing, right af­ter a game. But Vish­wanath says his back­ground in medicine could help the foot­ballers feel com­fort­able in such sit­u­a­tions. “That’s where our job comes in. They might be hap­pier to talk to a med­i­cal per­son rather than an of­fi­cer,” he says.

In the un­likely event of a su­per­star like Messi be­ing called in for a test, Vish­wanath says, “We are not al­lowed to ask for au­to­graphs or pho­tos. I might just stand and stare at him.” Vol­un­teer­ing can be a thank­less job, with long hours and no pay. Vol­un­teers also stand lit­tle chance of watch­ing the matches. How­ever, they view it as a way of show­ing their grat­i­tude to­wards Rus­sia and the sport that they love, and are look­ing for­ward to it with great en­thu­si­asm.

Richik, who also vol­un­teered dur­ing the 2014 Win­ter Olympics in Sochi, says, “It is more about want­ing to do (some­thing) for the place you are in. It’s com­pul­sory for Rus­sian cit­i­zens to en­list in the Army for a year. I didn’t have to, as I hold an In­dian pass­port. I wanted to do some­thing for the coun­try and vol­un­teer­ing is one way of giv­ing back.”

SPE­CIAL AR­RANGE­MENT

Mithila Pathak, who moved from Pune to Rus­sia in 2015 to pur­sue a Doc­tor of Medicine (DM) de­gree, will be based in Nizhny Novgorod, and will be in­volved in spec­ta­tor ser­vice to Ar­gen­tini­ans, English and Swedish fans, among oth­ers.

SPE­CIAL AR­RANGE­MENT

Mithila with an­other med­i­cal stu­dent, Vish­wanath Iyer, who will be work­ing as a chap­er­one for the med­i­cal and dop­ing con­trol teams dur­ing the matches.

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