High five, por favor, arigato: World Cup volunteers discuss their work and city guests

High five, por favor, arigato: World Cup volunteers discuss their work and city guests
Оргкомитет «Россия-2018»
This mos.ru story discusses the routine work of city volunteers during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the skills acquired by them during the tournament and also profiles the capital’s guests.

Fans from all over the world flocked to Moscow and the other Russian cities hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This mos.ru story deals with city volunteers who share their impressions of Moscow and foreign guests during the tournament. They helped foreign tourists find their way about the capital and to admire the most beautiful local sights.

You can feel proud of this experience all your life

Irina Markina, team-leader of the Transport sector, student at Moscow State Pedagogical University

Оргкомитет «Россия-2018»

I led a team of volunteers at Leningradsky Railway Station. We met before each shift, I instructed them, and we discussed all issues. We conducted a debriefing after each five-hour shift; I asked volunteers how everything had gone, and we shared our opinions.

We helped everyone, including people going to the matches and those visiting their friends. For fans arriving in Moscow by train, we were the first locals they saw. We met them, helped them in the metro, and we advised them on how to reach hotels and stadiums, see local landmarks, buy tickets and so on.

We tried to spend as much time as possible on every person who asked us for help, and we were always ready to assist them.

As a future English language teacher, I am fluent in this language. I also speak Spanish, as well as a little Arabic and German. I mostly spoke English and Spanish during the World Cup. I even managed to improve my ‘pre-intermediate’ level of Spanish to almost ‘advanced’ during the tournament. Latin American fans have a very poor knowledge of English or they don’t speak it at all. So, you have no choice but to brush up your Spanish.

There were special books of comments at the railway station, where any of the arriving or departing guests could write down their comments about volunteers and the tournament itself in any language. We received plenty of positive comments, and it seems that everyone was delighted with the tournament, the way it was organised and the work of volunteers.

In fact, this is just amazing. You can feel proud of this experience all your life. Millions of people got a good impression of Russia after attending this extremely well-organised event.

After the first group stage ended, those who were initially afraid to come here for the World Cup read comments that everything was fine and decided to visit Moscow, and they bought match tickets for the quarterfinals and the semifinals. In the long run, they liked it here very much.

It feels great to hear that people appreciate your work

Anastasia Zhilina, team-leader of the Last Mile sector, medical support volunteer, a student at the Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University

We escorted fans to stadiums from the metro and the Moscow Central Circuit stations, as well as nearby areas. We worked at both Spartak and Luzhniki arenas.

Our main task was to help people in difficult situations. For example, if they felt sick, we helped them get to the nearest medical team in the area or called an ambulance for them.

We also guided people to the entrance indicated on their tickets, gave directions, explained how to use storage facilities and get to the closest Fan ID centre at the stadium. Plus, we tried hard to create a festive atmosphere for the fans.

We greeted them with our special High Five palms (a graphical model a big palm made of coloured plastic), which made them happy and created a festive mood.

The FIFA World Cup took over the entire country. It is a very special event that I simply could not miss, having been a volunteer for three years. I wanted to be in the heart of it all, help fans find their bearings in the city, and show them that we are cool, friendly, and open-hearted people.

I speak English and Japanese. Surprisingly, I got to use my Japanese on several occasions. Unfortunately, in Moscow you don’t get to practice Japanese very often, as Japanese tourists mostly visit the Russian Far East. I was excited that I could use the language with fans from Japan. They were very surprised and happy to meet people in Russia who could communicate with them in their native language.

Volunteers really enjoyed communicating with foreign fans, who are fun and very outgoing people. You can talk to them on almost any topic. 

At first, they did not realise that they could ask us for assistance, but eventually they figured it out and started to approach us when they needed help.

Fans were also impressed with Moscow and Russia in general. The World Cup has destroyed all misconceptions about our country. They told us: “We thought things were different here, we did not expect to see this.” They were also very grateful to volunteers. We kept hearing, especially before and after the games: “Thank you very much for what you are doing.” It is really rewarding to know that the work you put your whole heart into is appreciated. It is a great feeling.

Unlike other events, during the World Cup, I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer team leader for a whole month. It was an excellent opportunity to improve my management skills. You learn to better allocate your time and the time of your teammates, to communicate with people you supervise. It was also great language practice. Plus, you have a chance to meet new people and make new friends among volunteers and fans from across the world.

“Foreign fans told us they want to come back to Moscow”

Galina Tsyplakova, a volunteer of the Tourist Routes sector, student at Moscow State Linguistic University

I worked as a Tourist Routes volunteer at VDNKh. We had a stand there, and we dealt with foreign tourists, as well as Russian fans from various cities. My friends and I told them about VDNKh and its most interesting attractions, and we suggested the best tourist routes.

While talking to foreigners, we told them about the history of VDNKh and its current popular sites, including the Moskvarium oceanarium, the Russia: My History pavilion, the Pavilion of Illusions and lots more.

We also told them where the nearest bike sharing stations were located, so that they could hire bicycles and scooters.

I am fluent in French and English and started learning Arabic fairly recently. During my first shift, I was able to speak all three languages. English-speaking and French-speaking tourists, as well as those from Algeria, approached our counter, and I was even able to tell them something in Arabic.

The foreigners seemed very friendly to me. Some of them shared their impressions of Russians and Moscow. They liked it very much here and said they would be happy to come here once again. Some noted that they would stay in Moscow for a while after the World Cup.

Many of them said they got the impression before visiting Moscow that Russians were cold people who would not help them but would merely walk past, etc. And it turned out that everyone here is so friendly, that people smile a lot, and that they are ready to offer assistance and advice.

They liked it very much here. And they thanked us and tried to say some kind words in Russian. It was very pleasant to work with them.

While training and working as a volunteer, I learned about numerous tourist landmarks in Moscow, I received useful information which, hopefully, will prove useful for me later on, and I got acquainted with lots of people. This is an extremely useful experience.

“My work as a World Cup volunteer allowed me to practise my English, to learn more about different cultures and to get to know Moscow better.”

Irina Koshurnikova, a volunteer of the Information Centres sector, student at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics

I was posted near Oktyabrskaya metro station. We helped foreign tourists find various places, showed them the location of FAN ID and ticket centres. We replied to any questions from city residents and tourists. We were free to choose morning, daytime or evening shifts, with each shift lasting four hours.

Tourists hanging around Oktyabrskaya metro station mostly ask us how to get to ticket and FAN ID centres, the Spanish Embassy, the French Embassy, Gorky Park, Muzeon Arts Park and the State Tretyakov Gallery.

Foreigners made a very favourable impression on me. They are very friendly and polite. Many people probably expected some tough fans to show up, to act like football hooligans and pick a fight with fans of other national teams, but everything turned out to be absolutely different. There were no conflicts. All foreign fans are very friendly, they always wish you a good day, and they say “thank you” and “please.” It was a pleasure to communicate with them.

Foreign fans told us that they enjoyed staying in Moscow and other Russian cities during the World Cup, and that Russia exceeded their expectations. Admittedly, they received much more positive energy than they had expected.

They also admire our people, landmarks, nature and our considerate attitude, and they like all this very much.

For me, this proved to be a colossal experience. First of all, I was able to practise my English. At the same time, we learnt more about people from other countries, their culture and views.

We were also able to learn more about Moscow. I have studied many city districts where I have never been before down to the smallest detail. Today, I know much more about my native city than I did before the tournament.

We, volunteers, were very happy to be a part of the World Cup and to help create a positive impression of our people, our country and our capital.