Thousands of volunteers have been making a crucial contribution at the various tournament venues across Europe – while enjoying the experience of a lifetime.
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Whether it is directing supporters to the stadium, creating a festive atmosphere in the fan zone or organising accreditation for media, there have been a huge range of opportunities for volunteers to make their mark at UEFA EURO 2020 – and indeed the tournament would not have functioned so effectively without them.
When applications closed for positions in autumn 2019, a record 37,000 people had applied for the 12,000 available positions across the 12 scheduled host cities, highlighting the appetite for a Europe-wide event that would reach countries that had not previously hosted such major sporting occasions. Aged from 18 to 86, our diverse team of volunteers and mobility makers have been representing 113 nations across the globe.
For some, the opportunity to be involved has been too good to miss, either to be part of the festival or to experience working in sport, while for others it has simply been the next step in a long volunteering journey.
"We are extremely grateful to our team of thousands of volunteers across Europe who have worked with us to make UEFA EURO 2020 a success," says UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin.
"Throughout our 11 host cities, whether in fan zones or at stadiums, we have seen a spirit of unity and teamwork among our staff and volunteers of which we can be extremely proud. I hope that the tournament has provided each and every one of them with a series of unforgettable memories."
For UEFA, promoting volunteerism and the volunteer community is an important strategic priority – football could not thrive as it does without them.
"Our volunteers have been very important," explains UEFA Events SA CEO Martin Kallen, the man responsible for staging the tournament successfully. "To have these extra members of the team has been a huge help and I hope that it benefits everybody involved.
"The pandemic has made the situation for volunteers more complicated because we have had a safety policy where you should not come to the stadium if you could manage to work from home. But where it has been safe and where they could enhance the visitor or fan experience, it has been very beneficial. But it is important for us to remember that our volunteers have not just been with us to work, but also to enjoy themselves and gain valuable experience."
A myriad of motivations
Whatever the reasons for volunteering, there have been countless examples of people having fun and enjoying the role.
"If I can afford it, I will have a tattoo with the volunteer logo and the writing: 'I was part of it, EURO 2020 Copenhagen,' says John Reimann Birch, 46, a mobility maker who has been helping with transport and travel while also taking extra shifts in technical services, accreditation, signage and ceremonies.
"I spent a lot of time on my application as I could not miss this unique opportunity. It has given me a lot of pleasure to be part of such a huge event. I like to meet people, and if I can help by bringing a smile to other people's lips or guiding them in the right direction, that is fantastic."
Virginia, in Rome, believes the tournament has helped her discover a newfound self-belief.
"My experience as a volunteer has given me the freedom to be confidently myself, to pay attention to others and respect their diversity, an aspect that is fundamental to me," she says.
"Volunteering is an experience that enriches you and makes you feel that you are giving something to others, and you receive something else in return; you are leaving your mark. You feel that you belong to the experience, the event and the team – it makes you feel alive!"
For others, it has been the next best thing to being on the pitch.
"I like to volunteer as it means I'm part of a volunteer community whose aim is to help other people," says Maxine in London. "I love being part of the Wembley family and although I can't represent my country on the pitch playing football, I'm representing it off the pitch by helping others."
In Spain, Francisco had his position switched when Bilbao was replaced as a host city by Seville. He did not hesitate to continue the role.
"I am from Bilbao and I live in Seville – I really wanted to participate in Bilbao and be part of an event in my homeland," he explains. "I have participated in sporting events as a volunteer in other countries around the world. I decided to take part to rejuvenate myself by being with young people and to socialise, live the experience and give encouragement and enthusiasm to the next generations."
Testimonies from across Europe
Philine in Amsterdam
"This has been my first major sporting event as a volunteer and I proudly wear my uniform every day. An experience never to forget!''
Andrada in Bucharest
"Being part of EURO 2020 was a real adventure. I knew from the start that it was going to be a journey to remember, so I immediately joined the volunteer programme. Today I feel proud to have been part of the story. It's been a historical moment for Romania and for Bucharest, and I know that my work as a volunteer has made a difference in the lives of so many people. Thank you for this opportunity – it will be one of the best stories I'll tell in my life."
Narmin in Baku
"Volunteering is one of my favourite things to do. For me, being a volunteer is working side by side with others, being helpful to our community and making it a better place. I'm happy that my city became a host city for EURO 2020 and I had a chance to participate in such a big event and represent my city and country. It's been an honour for me."
Rita, Bolda, Laura and Réka in Budapest
"Being surrounded by like-minded people who share the same passion made our time during the tournament memorable and life changing. The variety of administrative and operational tasks further developed our understanding of how events of such magnitude are organised and run. We are looking forward to getting together again in the future!"
Callum in Glasgow
"I have really enjoyed volunteering with the signage team and helping out around the stadium, especially in the anniversary year at Hampden Park. It made the experience even more memorable with Scotland being there. I have really enjoyed working in the team and meeting new people. I would definitely do it again and recommend it to anyone for future events."
Alicia in Munich
"After a year with COVID, lockdown and working from home, it's been great to finally get back to work together in an arena and to meet new people. We were here to create something together and with a motivated team like this in Munich, the volunteer work has always been fun. In such a short time we have grown together into a good team and it's been a unique atmosphere."
Anastasia in Saint Petersburg
"Every time I saw photos from my volunteer friends from various championships in the world of football, I understood that they were falling into a small universe. Obviously, I wanted to do the same, and here I have been a hospitality team leader. Inexpressible emotions every day, drive, bustle, a bunch of new acquaintances, friends – all this has made this experience unique and I have never regretted that I finally made up my mind!"