For the thousands hoping to volunteer at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, the interview is perhaps the most nerve-wracking part of the process. This was especially true, though, for those who arrived at the Volunteer Centre at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on 28 February. After all, they found themselves being interviewed by a bona fide world champion.
Carles Puyol, who won the 2010 FIFA World Cup with Spain, flew into Moscow in order to chat with the prospective candidates and even help out with the selection process. Puyol appeared at three World Cups, as well as the Confederations Cup in 2009, so knows first-hand how important the volunteers are to creating a festive atmosphere.
“The sense of joy coming from the volunteers is one of the most amazing things I saw at the World Cup,” Puyol revealed. “They add feelings of happiness and friendship, and a few really helped our team at big tournaments.”
The preparations for the Confederations Cup in Russia this year are in full swing: the stadiums are nearly ready and the fans who did not manage to get tickets first time round are eagerly awaiting the next sales phase, which begins on 1 March. The team of volunteers is also being readied for the tournament, with the selection stage currently well underway.
Puyol has a special bond with the volunteers, having supported the Russia 2018 Volunteer Programme since its inception. The World Cup-winning captain was in Moscow on 1 June 2016 when the programme was launched. Now he has returned to explain to the candidates what is in store for them at a major football tournament.
*Assessing the contenders
*One interviewee with excellent Spanish stepped forward to help Puyol communicate with the Russian press, and the legendary former Barcelona defender even stuck around for a game of football. The match only lasted 20 minutes, but the aspiring volunteers and university students were already able to get a glimpse of the ability that helped Puyol become a world champion.
The 38-year-old has managed to squeeze in a wide variety of activities during his brief two-day visit to Russia. Before arriving at the Volunteer Centre, Puyol saw one of capital city's main attractions, the Moscow Metro, and even a took a ride on a train designed in the signature style of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017.
“I can’t recall having played in Moscow. However, judging by today’s experience, including the ride in Moscow’s subway, this seems to be a city that will have plenty to offer to the fans besides the Confederations Cup and World Cup matches,” he said.
Yesterday, Puyol was in Saint Petersburg, where he visited the stadium that will host the Opening Match and Final of the Confederations Cup 2017. He also spoke to Russian fans via an online video chat at the offices of social network VKontakte and met with the winners of a competition for tickets at the Tournament of Champions.
The visit helped Puyol to better understand the scale of preparations and excitement ahead of the big event, which starts on 17 June.
“We can expect exciting matches at the Confederations Cup,” said Puyol, who also shared his thoughts on potential candidates for the trophy. “Russia are starting a process with a new coach and they will be supported by their fans. Germany and Chile could be seen as the favourites due to the great football they have produced in the recent past. They will meet in the group phase and it wouldn’t surprise me if they face each other in the final as well.”