Behind the scenes at the Champions League Final
Football fan Judith Gunion has volunteered at three UEFA Champions League finals. She shares a behind-the-scenes peek from this year’s final in Milan.
“This is my third Champions League Final since I started in London in 2013. Last year was my first foreign sojourn with UEFA when I was accepted as a volunteer for the Berlin final in 2015. And this year, so determined was I to be accepted that I started learning Italian in night classes so I could honestly say on the application that I had basic Italian.
Judith with her fellow volunteers at the 2015 Champions League final.
I must have said something right last year, as this time, I’m one of four volunteer co-ordinators. We are quite a mix – one Portuguese, one Spaniard, one Italian and myself. Plus, the head of the festival volunteers is Mexican.
It is the Football Festival that draws me to the UEFA Champions League. I work with a fantastic group of enthusiastic volunteers, many football mad, and we help fans from the host city and supporters of the two finalists. This year it is two Spanish teams – Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid – so we’re expecting an invasion of Spanish fans.
For me that is the pleasure of working at the Festival: seeing the exuberance of the fans. Although one side always has to lose – you can always spot those fans the day after.
The Festival gives me a chance to practise a bit of my language skills. I get to visit cities I have never been to and work with a core of volunteers who enjoy it as much as I do.
I ended my first shift today in brilliant sunshine, 25°C, getting ready for the rest of the volunteers coming in for their training tomorrow. I know I’m about to start five days of long hours working in front of the magnificent Duomo and at the Castello Sforzesco. A volunteer’s life can’t get much better than that.”
“Today was the opening day of the Champions League Festival of Football, which opens in the run up to the match on Saturday, 28 May. We had a strong team of about 25 volunteers and we knew it was going to be a hectic and very hot day.
My position today was with a team of three by the trophy, which was presented in the piazza in front of Milan’s famous Duomo (pictured above). A stunning backdrop.
This is always a full-on job as thousands of people want their photo with the trophy – we clicked through just over 2,500 people. It can be a fun position and we try to rotate different volunteers to do it during the four days. It’s the closest we’ll ever get to the trophy!
Other groups of volunteers were at information booths where they fielded questions and gave out small souvenirs. There is one main booth that gives out the bigger prizes that the fans can get by participating in games. It was a beautiful and very warm day with the temperatures reaching 28°C. I was always on the look out to make sure my volunteers had enough water and sunscreen.
By the time we stopped entry into the trophy queue, most of us were flagging just a tad, but when bopping music started up on the main stage, I just couldn’t stop moving to the beat – perhaps it was to keep myself awake!
The volunteers worked one of two shifts, but as a co-ordinator I worked through both. It’s my first year being selected as a co-ordinator and I’m relishing it – I feel quite privileged.
When we all checked out, we stayed sitting in some chairs in the volunteer office. One of my young Austrian team members asked why I didn’t go home; we had worked long hours.
I said that would mean I would have to make the decision to get up and out of the chair!
It was an amazing day, and I truly look forward to doing it all over again tomorrow.”
Judith also volunteered at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am & Parapan Am Games.
– Judith is part of the Join In Rio 2016 Legacy Volunteers programme, bringing London 2012 volunteers to Rio 2016.
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