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Joanna Harvey's World Cup Volunteer Blog: Brazil vs. Croatia

It happens to be sweltering in Berlin. On Tuesday, the day of the game, it was 86 degrees with humidity that you could practically swim through. Still, the sun is a welcome change to the extended winter that I had endured.

I started my day in Berlin at the newly opened Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station). I wanted to walk around and capture the spirit of the city. At the Brandenburger Tor there is a large screen set up for the Fan Fest where over 200,000 spectators can gather to watch and support their team. 

On Tuesday there were thousands of people swarming the streets. Every individual was adorned with soccer gear in one form or another. White and red chequered fans were prominent and the infamous blue, green, and yellow colors are ever present no matter where one goes. For fans, soccer is not entertainment during the World Cup, it is religion. 

I arrived at the Volunteer Center at 3 p.m. There are roughly 360 volunteers working at the Olympia Stadion. There is a viewing room with a big screen, a plasma TV, couches, and bean bag chairs to fulfil the seating needs of those volunteers wishing to see the games going on in other cities prior to our game, which started at 9 p.m.

As a volunteer your receive a voucher good for a meal, a snack, and three 0.5 litre drinks. It is enough food to give us a decent caloric intake before our shift starts and we are brought to the stadium.

At 4:45 p.m. all the volunteers line up behind their team leaders to prepare for the track to the stadium. There are about 30 teams, and I am on a team of four individuals. We were assigned to assist security at the entrance. 

Getting to the stadium is a short walk from the Volunteer Center. Not that I have been to many stadiums in my life to have a point of comparison, but this one definitely struck me with a sense of awe. Prior to arriving to the Olympia Stadion, I was aware of its historical significance as the venue for 1936 Olympic Games. The modernization of the stadium took over four years to prepare it for the World Cup.

After hanging around the stadium a bit, we were asked to go to our designated areas. Some volunteers were to go in the stadium, other were to be immediately outside of the stadium to provide the spectators with information, and some were to monitor the first entry way the fans came in. Any spectator can be checked up to three times before arriving to his/her seat.

My team leader was “super busy” making calls to everybody and nobody. Matthias, Sebastian, and I (the team) were just standing around looking like living question marks. Our team leader had not communicated to us concretely our tasks, where we were to be, how long we would be in a specific location…just we weren’t doing anything. Finally another team leader grabbed us so we could help him bring bottles of water to the volunteers. Talk about important tasks.

As we went towards the stadium Matthias and Sebastian took some pictures before our duties at the entrance were to begin. Luckily the boys quickly made the acquaintance of Oliver, the head supervisor of the security in the stadium. The security company, BEST, is there to provide the hardcore security and the volunteers are there to supplement the staff. Oli had expressed his need for a few extra people in the stadium and we were more than happy to take the chance. Oli assigned me to the Brazilian section because of the slight chance I may be able to help the guests with my Spanish language abilities. Portuguese and Spanish are not the same language, but at least we can get the gist of what each of us is saying when we speak to each other. That was cool enough.

I aided the guests to their seats and once everyone was settled in I watched these adoring fans proudly sing their national anthems along with their team they had come so far to support. The whistle had blown I was free to watch the match, Brazil vs. Croatia. This World Cup tournament has been exceedingly defensive and the goals are few and far between.
I have to say that I was more entertained by the fans than by the match. Everyone was hamming it up for their camera op. I was slightly hesitant to take pictures on my first day at work because I didn’t want to seem exceedingly unprofessional.

The game ended 1:0, Brazil. Since my team ended up in the stadium, we had more or less lost our team leader, so we left immediately after the game. The streets were packed with the triumphant Brazilians, but I would be lying if I said that they left the stadium any differently than they came in. This crowd knows they are behind a team with a prestigious legacy and expects nothing but success for their team.