Getting Ready For Russia And The World Cup

I just received an email from a local Panamanian bank telling me if I use their Visa issued cards, I could possibly win a trip to Russia to watch Panama compete in the World Cup

Just use your Multibank Visa and you could join the Panamanian National Team in Russia where their opening match will be played June 18th against Belgium. How exciting would that be?

Because I have been doing a great deal of research about Panama’s role in this incredible sporting event, I also receive blasts galore hawking t-shirts and other merchandise sporting the Panamanian flag and the World Cup Trophy.

There is also the “Be There With Hyundai” slogan contest. All you have to do is come up with the best slogan to be displayed on the bus to be used for the Panamanian National Team. If you garner the most votes, from on-line voting, you’ll win one of 32 grand prizes which includes round trip airfare for two to Moscow, three nights at a luxury hotel, plus tickets to see Panama compete. You also would be given the honor of escorting the team to their match.

I’ll Start Begging Now!

I entered the slogan contest, but won’t know if I moved up into the voting phase for a couple of weeks. They only select the top three slogans for voting, but if I’m among the top three I’ll be begging for votes.

Four Million Spectators

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has been working hard to get ready for the expected four million spectators who will attend the first 63 games leading up to the championship game to be held in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. It is difficult for me to even think about the Panamanian team playing before a capacity crowd of 81,000 screaming spectators. Of course, they will only see that many fans if they are in the finals. While I’m thrilled Panama is participating in the World Cup, it would be a real underdog accomplishment if they made it to Moscow on July 15th. Panama’s first game will be in Sochi against the Belgium National Team and there will be 47,659 people in the stadium. Still a lot of spectators! I’m hoping lots of Panamanians are able to make the trip. For those who can’t, I’ll be reporting!

I really want to get the call that my slogan has been chosen as the winner for the Panamanian bus. If you see “Viva Panama—The Isthmus With Kick”, you’ll know I’m going to be escorting the team!

175,000 Applications For 15,000 Spots

The month-long tournament could not be held without an army of volunteers. Yes, I said volunteers. These are people who are not going to be paid to work for a minimum of four weeks, with championship days running 15-hour work shifts.

“We had 175,000 applications for 15,000 spots,” said a representative of the 2018 World Cup Volunteers Program. “It was a very complicated process and it took several months for us to make the appropriate selections,” she continued.

According to FIFA, the applicants had to fill out an on-line form, complete with photo just to start the process. An English proficiency test was taken by all applicants, followed by two Skype interviews with FIFA officials in Moscow. With a seven hour difference from Panama City to Moscow, some calls were early morning.

Fifty-Seven On-Line Courses

After short-listing down to about 30,000 individuals, the hopeful volunteers had to complete 57 on-line courses ranging from the various facts about Russia and the 12 different venues, to what receiving a “Yellow Card” in a soccer match would mean to a player.

Zabivaka, the wolf is the mascot for the 2018 World Cup. It’s nice he is sporting Panama’s colors!

Another round of on-line interviews were conducted to narrow the 175,000 applicants to the final 15,000 who will be working in Russia as a volunteer. As volunteers, FIFA provides a place to stay in a local hotel for the balance of the assignment. Breakfast is included as well as a meal during working shifts. All other expenses are the responsibility of the volunteer, including air fare to Russia.

Not A Bad Gig

“It’s not a bad gig” the FIFA official told me. “These volunteers will be given uniforms they will be required to wear while on duty. Included are Adidas tennis shoes which will sport the World Cup logo, a ball cap, jackets, backpacks, shorts, polo shirts, sweaters and sweatshirts. I loved hearing that Adidas was a Corporate Partner, since I’ve worked with so many of their executives who have been transferred to Costa del Este and the Central American headquarters of Adidas.

“We also have deals with some of our other partners to make life easier for the volunteers during down time. Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Anheuser-Busch will provide products. And, well, there will be vodka!” she said with a laugh. “It is the Russian national drink!”

I am excited about reporting on the World Cup, but I’m a bit anxious too. One of the best things about being from Panama is that we really aren’t anyone’s enemy. Panama will be playing England and U.K Prime Minister Theresa May has already confirmed that no members of the royal family or government ministers will be traveling to the tournament. That is in response to political tension between Russia and England. I feel certain all the necessary precautions are in place, but safety will be on every fan’s mind. I do think, wearing the Panamanian red, white and blue will go a long way toward safety.

One Of Thirty-Two Teams

The fact Panama is one of 32 teams in competition is amazing. I see us competing on the world stage in more venues every day, whether it is The World Cup or an international economic summit.

Excitement is building and each day brings something new from small children asking for a stuffed World Cup Mascot to more and more opportunities to win a trip to the big show. I’m in! All in and I can’t wait. Viva Panama—the isthmus with kick!

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