Enthusiasm is mounting over Panama’s first World Cup appearance!
I am extremely excited to announce that I will be able to bring you exclusive information and insight about local fans who go to Russia to support the team, as well as insider information about the competitions and Panama’s ultimate fate.
I’m not going to be able to make the trip myself, but I have a close friend who has been selected to “volunteer” at the 2018 World Cup. When she first mentioned she’d be going, I had no idea how difficult it was to get a “volunteering” gig. There were a total of 175,000 applicants for the 15,000 unpaid positions. It took four Skype interviews, an English proficiency exam, passing 57 on-line courses and a commitment to travel to and work in Russia for five weeks without compensation. But, when I heard she would be in the middle of the action, I immediately jumped on the idea she could feed me information which I could pass along!
Check Out The Inside Scoop On The Website
I will be getting new data from her several times a week, which I will pass along directly via my website: https://www.lizlarroquette.com/. My contact lives part-time in Panama so she knows the country, loves the people and is just as excited as everyone else! She had a Panama World Cup t-shirt long before I saw them popping up in stores in Panama City.
“I am actually shocked I was selected,” my friend explained. “The competition was tight and since I’m originally from the States, my soccer knowledge is not as robust as some of the other applicants from places like Germany and Brazil! I don’t speak Russian and when they tested me for my English knowledge, I only rated ‘Intermediate’ even though I have a masters degree in English. My first thought was to question who was grading the test, but I decided to remain silent. I only needed an intermediate ranking to remain competitive.”
Who Knew They Needed Volunteers?
I wondered how one would even know that big events such as the World Cup even needed volunteers, but my friend explained; “lots of these events wouldn’t be able to manage successful competitions, if it weren’t for volunteers. I’ve done the PGA and the Senior PGA and hopefully I’ll be in Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics. I started holding a sign that said ‘Quiet Please’ on the 12th hole at Valhalla when Tiger Woods won the PGA in 2000. Getting the World Cup will totally beef up my resume.”
So what all is involved in getting a behind the scenes pass at the World Cup? “You have to be pretty confident and just keep trying. They discourage you. Once you are selected, positive things begin to happen,” she explained. “When we were just applying, they told us we would have to pay for our own place to stay for the five weeks, plus get yourself to the venue where you are assigned and that there wouldn’t be any meals provided. I started doing the math and it was a big decision to continue the process.”
My friend was accepted in the media department in Sochi, where Panama will play its first game on June 18th in Sochi against one of the strongest teams, Belgium. “I will work a total of 18 days in the various media areas around Fisht Stadium. Sometimes those days are 15 hours long. We do everything from holding the microphone when a star of the game is being interviewed for television, to making sure there is cold water in the coolers for the journalists. Not everything will be glamorous,” she laughed.
It’s Not Easy Being A Working Journalist
“I’ve been a working journalist for much of my career,” said my friend, who is now semi-retired. “I know what the media people are facing. It doesn’t matter if you are tired, or not feeling well, you have just so much time to write and file your story. There is a lot of pressure to get it right. You have to depend on volunteers to run research for you and to make sure everything is working. Things like the internet and the photos being delivered in a timely manner. Many of the volunteers are very young—college kids in their 20s—so I think my age and experience will help me be successful. When you have been a journalist, you know getting the facts straight is paramount! Those guys from The New York Times,Sports illustrated and Getty Images will appreciate my old wisdom and thoroughness.”
The good news is that my friend will have access to all the photos and statistics of the games being played by Panama and those will be coming my way so I can post them on the website. Even when they are not playing in Sochi, she can pull anything from the other 10 stadiums where games are being played.
Just Stay In The Olympic Village
“Once we were selected for the team,” she said, “things began to get easier. All of a sudden I wasn’t shopping for an inexpensive place to stay for five weeks, but rather I was assigned a free room in the old Olympic Village from the 2014 Summer Olympic Village. It looks pretty nice as it overlooks the Black Sea and the gym is to die for!
“They give you clothes—including branded tennis shoes no one wants to actually wear, but rather just keep—and they do your laundry every 24 hours so your uniform is clean and pressed. We get to eat in the Media Cafeteria and all transportation is complimentary,” she said laughing. “We have to honor the partners of the World Cup like drink Budweiser beer, eat McDonald’s and drink Coca-Cola. I’m not a beer drinker, but I’m stoked about the cell phones we are being given by a sponsor from China. I guess they also leave vodka in everyone’s room. That should be interesting with a bunch of 20 somethings,” she said with a broad smile.
From All Over The World
“I’ve been chatting with various team members on internet apps and they are from all over the world. Only three of us are from the United States, but others are from Argentina and Brazil, most of the European Union countries, England, China, African nations—it’s pretty cool. Most want to jockey around schedules so we can each have enough time to get on the train and go to see games in other venues. I’m planning on visiting Panama’s training facility outside Moscow and going to their games against England and Tunisia. I’m pretty excited about my non-compensated work!”
My friend told me the Sochi media team would be working from June 4th until July 9th, which included 24 hours of on-site training before the shift even began. The Sochi venue would be closed after July 9th and moved to Moscow where the championship games would be played.
An Honor For Panama
“I’m thrilled Panama is in the competition at all,” she said. “It’s a great honor to be included, but to get to the finals would be an amazing accomplishment for Panama. Iceland is the only other team in the competition who has never been on the World Cup stage before and teams such as Germany, Belgium and England are strong favorites, but if Panama is in the mix at all—watch out for some great inside information!”
As my friend packs for her trip to Russia, which takes her on connections through Chicago, London and Moscow before landing in Sochi on a Siberian Airlines flight, she is trying to think of everything she might face. “I have some Rubles and extra security on my computer and personal phone, a small pharmacy if I come down with any malady, my Russian Visa was tough but it’s pasted in my passport and I have health insurance just in case I need to be repatriated,” she continued laughing. “It’s going to be a great experience and I’m so glad I can share it. Viva Panama!”