14 October 2009
Nelson Mandela Bay is named after South Africa’s world-renowned “elder statesman”. It is fitting, then, that the oldest 2010 Fifa World Cup™ volunteer applicant also hails from the city. And 79-year-old Amrit Daya even shares a birthday with the great man.
Born like Mandela on 18 July, albeit 12 years later in 1930, Daya has spent all of his life in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, the city that will host eight World Cup matches in 2010.
“They say all great people are born on July 18,” Daya said in an interview at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium last week. “I feel greatly honoured to share a birthday with a great saint.”
The volunteer hopeful remembers all too well the days when the city was known as “the ghost on the coast”, with not much going for it.
And he is delighted to see how the city has used its 2010 host city status as a catalyst to reinvent itself as a hip, progressive destination now known as the “toast of the coast”.
With a vibrant, growing economy, impressive tourist offerings and surprise status as one of the world’s most “intelligent” information technology communities, Nelson Mandela Bay is gearing up to make the most of its moment in the global spotlight in June and July 2010.
And while he may be turning 80 a week after the World Cup final, Daya’s not about to turn down the chance of helping the city he loves put its best foot forward when the world comes calling.
He was the oldest of 67 999 volunteer applicants from over 170 countries who applied for the tournament, offering his services as a welcome and information services volunteer.
“The day Sepp Blatter opened the envelope and proclaimed South Africa as 2010 Fifa World Cup hosts, we all jumped for joy,” says Daya. “That moment was the beginning of the rejuvenation in the minds of our South African population. I thought this was one thing that can positively put Africa on the map.”
Despite his age, Daya still drives himself around the city and walks without the aid of a walking stick. He says his daily yoga exercises and spiritual meditation ensure he is “always in a good frame of mind to serve my community at large”.
“Nelson Mandela Bay is one of the most beautiful, laid-back cities where visitors always enjoy themselves,” he says. “It has so many attractions, such as its beaches and game reserves.
“There will be many people of stature in South Africa during the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Dignitaries from other countries, VIPs and heads of state. They will need people of good standing in the community to be of service to them.
“We should do things in a very professional way. It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity and the city must give of its very best.”
Daya says he is proud and blessed still to be around to see democratic South Africa’s finest moment next year.
“I’ve been blessed to live through 15 years of democracy and to still be around to see what the country has achieved as its democracy has progressed.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would see the day when South Africa hosts the Fifa World Cup. I would be delighted to make my contribution.”