THE UNSUNG HEROES
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Preparing dressing rooms before matches, helping guests at the stadiums, translating, facilitating use of the urban transport network, assisting
supporters on the streets, checking equipment at Fan Fests and, of course,
creating a festive atmosphere. All this and more was part of the volunteers' responsibilities – in all 20 different functions – during the World Cup.
Polina Surnina examines how they coped with their tasks.
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Preparing dressing rooms before matches, helping guests at the stadiums, translating, facilitating use of the urban transport network, assisting supporters on the streets, checking equipment at Fan Fests and, of course, creating a festive atmosphere. All this and more was part of the volunteers' responsibilities – in all 20 different functions – during the World Cup.
Polina Surnina examines how they coped with their tasks.
events, ranging from the Victory Day Parade to the National Youth Educational Forum, held on Iturup in the Kuril Islands. Lisa submitted her application to volunteer during the World Cup as soon as the campaign began, passed numerous tests and interviews, and became a leader of the Protocol team, responsible for accompanying VIP guests.

While we are chatting on a bench outside the stadium, a protective layer is being removed from the red carpet. It's the day of the final and it is not difficult to work out the importance of the guests it has been rolled out for. "These are artists, sportspeople, TV presenters, and people in high positions who are not public figures. I recently met an acquaintance, a vice-rector for social development at MGIMO," says Lisa.

I pose a provocative question. "Who are you dying to see the most?"

Lisa responds in a low-key manner, as befits her volunteer status. "Lyasan Utiasheva [the Russian TV host] I think. I welcomed her, her children and husband Pavel Volya and helped them find their seats in the stadium. Maradona was in our zone during one of the Argentina matches, although the other people wouldn't leave him be and were taking photos while he was trying to eat and just relax. We even needed to shield him from other VIP guests, who behaved just like starstruck fans at the time. I'm not allowed to take photos as a memento while volunteering and I try to remain calm and collected. It's much more important for me to see such people in the flesh, with my own eyes. Anyway, we can have our photo taken if the person concerned actually suggests it." Such an opportunity arose during the opening match when (comedian) Yevgeny Petrosyan gathered several volunteers around him and took a photo with them, which he later posted online.
isa Zaitseva is waving at me in a friendly manner while walking down the red carpet towards the VIP Luzhniki entrance. She has just graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), and for three consecutive years, she has been volunteering at large-scale
Lisa Zaitseva is waving at me in a friendly manner while walking down the red carpet towards the VIP Luzhniki entrance. She has just graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), and for three consecutive years, she has been volunteering at large-scale
Эта большая
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гостям чемпионата
ПОЧУВСТВОВАТЬ
СЕБЯ КАК ДОМА

43 человека
выносили
ЭМБЛЕМУ ТУРНИРА
перед каждым
матчем
Lisa Zaitseva is waving at me in a friendly manner while walking down the red carpet towards the VIP Luzhniki entrance. She has just graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO),
and for three consecutive years, she has been volunteering at large-scale
Everyone in Luzhniki is familiar with Francesco Serina. The 57-year-old commercial director of a company that sells sanitary equipment came to the World Cup simply to help and ended up among the Spectator Services volunteers. "When people asked me why I took this chance, my answer was I wanted to make sure that at least one Italian took part in the tournament," Francesco jokes.

He is not too downhearted that his national team did not qualify. "It's unfortunate, but that's sport for you. If you play badly and fail to make it to the tournament, then it's just one of those things," muses Francesco. "Everyone wondered what kind of World Cup it would be without Italy. It'll still be great. Hopefully our players will try a little harder next time."

Francesco has lived in Moscow for nine years and having a second home helps him deal with the disappointment his nation experienced. In fact, he recently received his Russian citizenship and was able to cheer on Russia just like any other Sbornaya fan.

He appreciates the World Cup for those special moments he will always treasure. One such moment was when Francesco's team gave him a Russian football jersey for his birthday, with his birth year printed on it. Another was when it started raining during training and everyone happily got soaked to the bone without worrying. "I'm not that young," says Francesco, "but I don't feel my age when I'm with my colleagues. Seeing such enthusiasm to do something together is genuinely uplifting."

Clearly, there was also plenty of enthusiasm outside of the Luzhniki during the championship, as Francesco reveals: "It's been an incredible event for Moscow. The atmosphere, the energy, the adrenalin! Strangers meet in the street and start chatting to each other. TVs showing football in every corner. A fantastic experience and a memory that will last a lifetime."
Memorable moments
45-year-old auditor Alexandre Myshenkov does not come into contact with many people in his daily life, which sees him spending hours in front of a computer studying financial reports. "For me, volunteering is a way to diversify and change my routine," he says, "as well as an opportunity to broaden my social network."

In 2014, at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Alexandre worked as an assistant to the Russian national team and planned on doing the same during the World Cup. Instead he ended up in the Volunteer Management department. As a result, he has had an opportunity to do much more than just hand out uniforms and food vouchers. He assisted in the opening of the Football Park in Red Square and welcomed the Russian national team, after they were eliminated, at the Fan Fest in Vorobyovy Gory. The players were exhausted and emotionally drained when they arrived from Sochi to address the huge crowd. The volunteers greeted them by lining up and holding out their palms for a high-five. "Even on film, they looked washed-out, but their mood visibly picked up and they gave uplifting speeches to their fans," Alexandre recalls.
Lifestyle
Each large-scale international event attracts volunteers from different countries, an aspect Alexandre would like to enjoy again in the future. "First, I interacted with all these different people in Sochi, and now in Moscow. I'm suddenly realising that volunteering is becoming a way of life for me. Many volunteer selection processes for future events are ongoing. Even here, we're already talking about the 2nd European Games in Minsk and the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk. Of course, I'll continue volunteering, and I'll promote volunteering to everyone, first and foremost to my sons. Volunteering is hugely in demand. It lets you leave your workstation and opens you up to a whole new world."
A football coach from Florida, Mark Epishin lived in the Caucasus until he was five and then emigrated with his parents to the USA. He has been playing football all his life and even learned to read Russian just to keep track of the news about Spartak. Mark had not been to Russia for 22 years until the summer of 2017, when he volunteered during the Confederations Cup. "Everyone told me that it's cold in Russia and people are sullen," he says, "and I wanted to see this for myself. The people I met turned out to be wonderful. But it was cold!"

Mark was part of the Team Services volunteers at the World Cup. When interviewed, he was asked openly what he would do if he were to meet Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. "Well, what would I do? When famous players walk by, you simply say, 'Hello, your locker rooms are here', you don't run up to them and hug them," he said as he smiled at the reminiscence. He did have an opportunity to speak to Messi, when someone forgot to unlock Argentina's locker room before the open training session. Messi sat on the floor putting on his boots as Mark quickly found the key. By and large, his responsibilities included arranging towels, running cold baths for footballers and inflating balls: during each match there are 20 specially marked balls.

As a coach, Mark was keen on finding out unusual things about the World Cup, like, for instance, what kind of food professional footballers ate after a match in the dressing room. What he managed to glean was that the Russian national team ordered pizza, the Spaniards enjoyed food from McDonald's, while the French ate noodles that they had brought with them specially. He also learned interesting facts about how teams trained, like the Moroccans holding hands while passing the ball around. Anyone who fell over left the circle, which gradually
narrowed.

When Russia won their match against Spain in a penalty shoot-out, Mark was ecstatic. He said that he cheered just like a native Russian would even though his home is now the USA. But volunteers cannot openly express their feelings when they are up close to the players. When Spain walked dejectedly by him following their defeat, he diplomatically tried to console them up by saying to each player: "Chin up! It's not the end of the world." He was also struck by the many behind-the-scenes moments that are not shown on TV, memorable things like players exchanging shirts. "On one occasion, security blocked access to the Spanish team because the King of Spain was with them." He also recalls hearing the Russian team play songs by Russian pop group Ruki Vverh in the dressing room.
Cheering as a Russian fan would
During the World Cup, the leader of the Media Relations function, Ida Stupina, managed to receive her Bachelor's degree and start her Master's programme at MGIMO. "I left the stadium at 3 a.m after one match, got home, printed out my thesis to read it through one more time, then left an hour later to defend it," she recounts. It may have been a stressful time but there was no way Ida was going to miss her opportunity to volunteer at the World Cup. She was pleased with the outcome.

You certainly have to be able to withstand stress when being a volunteer like Ida. Imagine, five minutes before the final whistle, having to deal with photographers when the roped cordon holding them back from the pitch is removed. Or having to look journalists in the eye and tell them who has and who hasn't been allocated a ticket. Yet another "pleasant" responsibility is to ensure that the non-written press do not break the rules by putting out coverage live, thus violating the rights of the international broadcaster HBS.

"You always have to communicate with others in a civilised manner," says Ida. "Everyone wants a photograph for memory's sake. To be honest, even I don't have one. I just didn't have the time. In the middle of the tournament, I found myself thinking, 'How will it feel after it's all over?' Even though everyone will be going their separate ways, we'll still be able to keep in touch. Planes, trains, phones were invented in order to do just that. If you have the desire, it's easier to achieve your goals. I love what I've accomplished. And despite the heavy workload, I feel happy."

At the awards ceremony following the final, there was a massive downpour. Usually, Ida delegated tasks for her team to carry out. In fact, during the entire month she had never once been on the pitch. But this was different as she grabbed some raincoats and ran to help. "When I reached the photographers, I fell to my knees, unpacked the raincoats and began covering the cameramen and their equipment as fast as I could. I was soaked to the bone. As I raised my eyes to meet the gaze of my colleagues who were responsible for the photographers' access, I saw they were in the same boat in terms of getting drenched. Yet they were smiling. This, you see, is exactly the kind of situation that made being a volunteer so worthwhile."

Clearly, volunteering means different things to different people. You can never predict when you will experience that limitless joy which neuroscientists dryly explain is due to the production of the feelgood hormone oxytocin, when successfully completing a team project. This kind of moment can catch you unawares at any time: like when you are on your knees in the rain; or extending the palm of your hand for a high-five with the dejected Artem Dzyuba; or when you are meeting a bus carrying your favourite team with a sign in your hands. But one thing you know for certain is that you will at some point experience this feeling. And it will recur again and again.
Ida's feelgood experiences