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Volunteers dig deep to make event a world-class success

You couldn't miss them. They were the ones decked out in red and black Adidas gear or white T-shirts and black shorts. They were the volunteers, and they're a big reason Victoria is now on FIFA's world soccer map.

You couldn't miss them.

They were the ones decked out in red and black Adidas gear or white T-shirts and black shorts.

They were the volunteers, and they're a big reason Victoria is now on FIFA's world soccer map.

More than 330 volunteers helped make the FIFA Under-20 World Cup a huge success in Victoria. They helped out with on-field and off-field security at Royal Athletic Park, worked as ushers to help fans find their seats, sold programs, gathered information and food for the hundreds of international media in attendance, and numerous other activities. And on hot summer nights like yesterday when the mercury was at 30 C before kickoff of the Japan/Czech Republic Round of 16 game, it wasn't always easy work.

Patty and Jim Crighton, and their three daughters, all volunteered for Victoria's U-20 World Cup showcase. And even though it was a little stressful at times, like many of the other volunteers, they would do it again.

"It was a great experience, and really that's what makes Victoria such a great sports town -- there're so many volunteers in this city willing to do their best to make an event so great, that Victoria could host any major event and make it a success," said Patty Crighton, who worked many of the game nights in the security dispatch booth, managing several different tasks.

While Jim worked as on-field security at Royal Athletic and during team practices at various parks around the city, the Crighton siblings -- Jessica, 12, Stephanie, 14, and Rebecca, 15, -- all worked as ushers in the stands.

"Fans are allowed in two hours before the game so we had to be there before that, so it did make for some long days," Patty said. "But we all had fun and would definitely do it again."

Tournament organizers were in awe at the spirit and work ethic of the local volunteers.

"They were awesome, that's the only way to describe them," said Harold McNeill, chairman of the Victoria site organizing committee.

"They came to the park always pumped up and full of excitement and that really helped energize everything. It really was amazing to see."

In addition to the 330 volunteers, there were also 400 city workers and officials involved in making the Victoria site a success.

"Combined we almost had 800 and that seemed to be the right number," added McNeill. "And they all came together to put no a show that many people will never forget."

The Crighton family is no stranger to volunteering at major sporting events. They helped out at the recent Pan Am swim trials at Saanich Commonwealth Place and lent a hand at last fall's Skate Canada at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

But nothing, yet, has come close to the enormity of FIFA's second largest event.

"There was just so many people in one area" added Patty. "That's something we weren't used to. And so many people, from officials to players to media and volunteers going in and out of the stadium and around the stadium. It was an enormous event.

"But everything went relatively smooth and I think the volunteers deserve a huge amount of credit for that."

For Stephanie and her sisters, who have played or are still playing soccer in the Juan de Fuca district, it was a chance to give something back to the sport they love.

"We had a great time and we would definitely do it all again," Stephanie said.

Volunteers were all given uniforms to make them standout. Security officials were given a hat, a jacket, shirt, shorts, socks and shoes. All courtesy one of FIFA's largest sponsors -- Adidas.

"It had to be Adidas, or in the girls' case, an Adidas T-shirt and they were allowed to wear any dark shorts as long as they didn't have a logo on them, like the Nike swoosh or something," Patty said. "It's all very organized."

Organized, on and off the field, thanks to some of Victoria's hard-working soccer enthusiasts.