Auckland sports fanatic off to volunteer at World Cup

Omar Dada in South Africa

Omar Dada is a maths teach, a husband, a father and a sports fanatic. He's spent most of his life either playing sport or watching it.

Specifically, 20 years of watching sport at Eden Park.

That's because Omar is a dedicated volunteer. You can usually find him at gate A - he's on spectator services so he's always sitting up above the crowds, welcoming them in and helping with any questions.

"The only reason for me being in one spot is because I have a loud mouth," he said.

"I do it relentlessly - let's put it that way. Every time a train comes on I'm thanking them for coming, pointing them to their seats, things like that."

Omar volunteers at the wide range of sports played at Eden Park, since he started he's only missed three.

"I was so annoyed, the last one I missed was because of my son's hockey game, but that was when the Blues won."

Luckily, he was there for the electric Rugby World Cup final last week. Speaking about it, you can see why he's spent so much of his life in this role.

"The sounds and feel of the stadium, you just can't beat it.... On Saturday the atmosphere was superb, it was a tense finish to the game.

"Just amazing."

New Zealand's representative

Despite his commitment to Eden Park, Omar has just headed overseas to take his volunteering international and return to his first sporting love - football.

40,000 people applied to be volunteers at the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and 20,000 were selected.

As far as Omar knows, he was the only volunteer selected from New Zealand.

He wasn't too upset that he wouldn't be able to cheer on the All Whites, who narrowly missed qualification.

"Hard luck to the boys, they tried their best," he said.

A young boy's dream

For Omar, this trip to his first international World Cup is much more than a volunteering opportunity.

Omar grew up in apartheid South Africa. He and his older brother were obsessed with football and they weren't too bad either. But segregation meant they never got their shot at going pro and turning what they loved into a career.

Omar Dada as a young boy

"You couldn't play with the white kids, you could only play with the Indian kids or the black kids in South Africa, we would just have to arrange games in the weekend. There was no league for us.

"As a kid I always dreamt of playing at the World Cup but because of the apartheid system, we never were able to make it into teams, we weren't able to play in teams."

When he gave up on his football dreams, he became a teacher and moved to New Zealand. He says to now head to the international tournament on behalf of the place he's called home since 1991 feels serendipitous.

"You know we had this dream of getting there, but we couldn't. But it's funny how things work out in your life. I came to New Zealand, down there in the world, bring my family, and we have an opportunity, and New Zealand has given me lots.

"You get a lump in your throat because you dreamt of it and you couldn't do it, and now it's happening. "


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