South African Indians making presence felt at World Cup

By Abhishek Roy, IANS,

Johannesburg : India may still have a long way to go to compete in the football World Cup, but the Indians in South Africa are already making their presence felt at the mega event as volunteers.

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A large number of people of Indian origin could be seen volunteering enthusiastically at the World Cup.

Melissa Reddy is a 19 year-old college student from Johannesburg and part of the welcome desk at the media centre at the Soccer City stadium. She greets journalists with a disarming smile and keeps them updated with a steady flow of information.

“It is a great opportunity to be a part of the world’s biggest sporting event. With this experience, I can try for a job in the hospitality sector. My parents at first did not approve of this job. But I managed to convince them. Today they are proud that I am part of this big event,” Melissa told IANS.

Like Melissa, 21-year-old Arshan Khan, who is just out of college and wants to pursue a course in sports management, feels the World Cup experience will stand him in good stead.

Khan has been busy helping the spectators at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in the capital city of Pretoria, about 50 km from Johannesburg.

“It is a tough task, specially on match days. Managing the crowd is not easy. It is a challenge, but I love doing it. This experience will help me in pursuing a course in sports management,” he said.

There are some one million people of Indian origin in South Africa. It is not only the younger ones who are part of the team of volunteers here. Senior people, too, have pitched in and have been handed bigger responsibilities like management and administration.

Manik Patel, 50, is an ardent football fan and has taken a month’s leave to be associated with the sports carnival.

Being a part of the stadium management group at the Ellis Park in the heart of the city also means that Patel is able to witness the football greats from close quarters.

“It is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity and I never wanted to miss it,” Patel, who works in a nationalized bank, told IANS.

“It doesn’t matter if I had to take a month’s leave. For me it is a totally different experience and I am enjoying it.”

(Abhishek Roy can be contacted at abhishek.roy