Around 15,000 people from across the world gather in cities across Russia to gain valuable experience as volunteers at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Puspita Atirennu, who hails from Indonesia, is among those spending time in St. Petersburg at this global sporting event.

Puspita Atirennu participates in FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia as a volunteer. Photos courtesy of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia & Puspita Atirennu/NOW!JAKARTA

As the world’s largest country with a population of over 140 million people, many of whom consider themselves ardent football fans, the World Cup 2018 in Russia is  sensational,  a magnet that brings together 190 ethnicities and 2,000 nationalities from across the globe.

11 cities are hosting the games this year, including St. Petersburg, the second-largest city in the country. Puspita Atirennu, who goes by Rennu, has spent the past two years here as a student.

Following a bachelor’s degree in Russian Studies from University of Indonesia, she pursued her passion for the interdisciplinary study of Russian language, literature and culture in St. Petersburg where she earned a master’s in International Relations from Saint-Petersburg State University.

She noted that the recruitment process for taking a volunteer role at FIFA volunteer was not difficult thanks to her ability to adapt to the culture. “I was invited to interview, in English and Russian. I didn’t expect much actually because it’s the World Cup. Thousands of people from around the world applied for this volunteer role, but then I got an email saying I passed the test as a volunteer in FIFA FAN Zone. Afterwards, training was conducted. It was surprising!” Rennu said.

As for the scope of her duties, she was responsible for providing technical assistance in the field of FIFA Fan’s Festival. “This is such a cool spot! I was assigned outside the stadium, and it’s one of the perfect places to watch the match. In this area, my duty is to help the organisers of the fan-zone site. We volunteers manage to help supporters and guests in FIFA Fan’s zone, inviting everyone to join the event as well as to support the fans during the live streaming of 2018 World Cup matches,” she said.

During her time in St. Petersburg, Rennu mostly spoke Russian. When asked about challenges on cross-cultural communication and adjustment within local volunteers, foreigners and supporters, she claimed, “Understanding the culture puts you in touch of the progress of the etymology of the language. Immersing onself in the culture as part of the language learning process is the best way to fully understand the language,” she continued. It was challenging but she was able to tackle the initial challenges of being able to speak four languages. If she found the barrier too great, she switched to English.

Puspita Atirennu becomes a volunteer in St. Petersburg.

Outgoing, friendly and multicultural−she embodies the all attributes required for a good volunteer. Without volunteers, these events just could not happen. “Being a volunteer has inspired me to meet interesting people and make friends from many countries. Also, it’s a great opportunity to practice and master my Russian language skills. It was the most exciting, intense month of my life I have to admit. I felt part of the World Cup.”, she said excitedly.

Expressing her opinion about FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, “It has been роскошно!” Amazing, she declared. Setting aside the political situations of counties around the globe, as the FIFA World Cup had the world’s gaze tuned to Russia. The country has its own aura to take over people in seizing their senses.

In support of the FIFA’s values of integrity and inclusiveness, the organisation has adopted a  zero-tolerance approach to discrimination. The event, which is unparalleled in its ability to bring friends and family together, is living proof of the fact that there isn’t anything else as magical as football, and an event that celebrates the sport and brings friends and family gather. “It’s a new religion,” she said, “and of course, say ‘no’ to racism”, she concluded.

Asyariefah R.A.

Asyariefah R.A.

Born into a nature-loving family, Asyariefah enjoys the outdoors. Now! Jakarta provides her favourite collection of narratives with a sense of helping establish her identity. Some of her key areas of expertise include human interest, arts & culture, travel and features.