The Volunteer Programme for the 2018 FIFA World Cup has become the largest of its kind in history, with 175,000 hopefuls applying to land a role at next summer’s tournament in Russia.

With just over two months to go until the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, the biggest sporting event of the year, some of the key contributors who make the tournament possible, the volunteers, have taken center stage. Tournament organizers received a record number of volunteers from 78 countries with a stagering 71 percent being female and 81 percent between the ages of 18-25.

Training for volunteers who will help to run the competition in Kazan, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Sochi has already started, and the training programme was presented to the media with some high-profile guests.

Former Spain international Carles Puyol issued a personal message to those who had been chosen to be a volunteer. The 2010 FIFA World Cup winner helped to launch the LOC’s Volunteer Programme and explained that more than 175,000 people from Russia and other countries volunteered for this year’s Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup.

“I was lucky to attend the launch of the volunteer program last summer and I’m very satisfied with the results. The program has been a huge success,” said Puyol, who also captained Barcelona to 21 major honors including three Champions League titles.

“With all of you (volunteers) eager to help we can really look forward to the Confederations Cup and the World Cup. What can I say? On the pitch, the players are the most important people. Off the pitch it is the volunteers who play the biggest role.

“You are the face of your country and have the honor of representing it. I wish you luck and I’m certain that your assistance will be a huge success,” he added.

                     

Prominent Russian politician Vitaly Mutko welcomed volunteers, reminding them of their importance to the competition and wishing them luck for the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.

“We are working out a training program – this is an important step. A volunteer is the main individual, without whom no large project is carried out,” the Russian Deputy Prime Minister said.

“There were 175,000 applications submitted for the volunteer positions, making it the largest program of its kind in history. It wasn’t easy to whittle it down to 20,000 volunteers, who will help organize such huge tournaments,” he added, also referring to the 2017 Confederations Cup that will be held in Russia this summer.

Together with Sergei Belogolovtsev and Aleksandr Samedov, Vitaly Mutko took part in a flashmob where 300 trainee volunteers launched a symbolic wave. Belogolovtsev and Samedov then conducted a draw to split the 300 volunteers into six groups of 50, six being the number of FIFA Confederations.

The 2018 World Cup is the showpiece of world football and will be held from June 14 to July 15 in 12 different stadiums in 11 host cities in Russia. It will be the first time the event is held in the country.

The event was also attended by representatives of McDonald’s, which is helping to train volunteers in supporting people with disabilities.

“We support our partners’ intention to create an accessible environment and support an active lifestyle,” explained Svetlana Polyakova, PR and Communications director of McDonald’s Russia. “And our goals coincide – we know firsthand that the work of a volunteer during any sports event is very important and extremely difficult, especially when it comes to helping people with disabilities.

“The experience of such professionals, the specialists of the McDonald’s program, will certainly be useful for our volunteers in their efforts to make football matches accessible to all people without exception, regardless of their health.

“Moreover, in Russia the programme ‘To the FIFA Confederations Cup with McDonald’s’, within which children can make their dream come true and walk their football idols to the field, will be quite unique. For the first time in the history of the FIFA Confederations Cup, children with disabilities will participate in it.”