Cape Town mom of two, Natasha Petersen, is waving the South African flag in Qatar at the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022.
For the past six months, she has worked her magic as “Venue Logistics Manager / Site Logistics Coordinator” at Lusail Stadium.
Though petite in stature, Petersen, from Grassy Park, has built a huge brand for herself over the years. She is among the management in the run-up to the sporting event.
Being in great demand in the entertainment industry, both locally and internationally, Petersen was invited to be interviewed for the post in March this year and packed her bags in May when she got the job.
“I received the official offer towards the end of April, and by middle of May, I was getting on a plane to start this journey,” she said.
Imagine having one month to pack up your life and move to another country for a few months. Well, that was the reality for an excited Petersen, who had to leave her family behind to pursue her much-needed skills in Qatar.
Petersen detailed what her job entails: “Lusail Stadium is the biggest stadium (80 000 pax capacity) in Qatar, and it will host the final game and closing ceremony of the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
“The stadiums are the centrepiece of the operation of a football tournament, with a large amount of goods and material needing to be delivered, handled and returned after.
“The Fifa World Cup is an event spread over large parts of a country, and the logistics team plays an important role in connecting those places in regard to moving materials and goods to and from them.
“Let me just say that no two days are the same. Generally, I try to start each day with some quiet time in the morning to get focussed for the day.
“Team briefings take place at the start of every day to discuss daily activities and priority spaces that need to be prepared.
“Checking in with the supply chain and material planning teams if we are expecting any deliveries.
“Ensuring all supporting documents required for crews working on site, or for delivery vehicles, or for Health & Safety, have been submitted to the relevant people and authorities.
“I am essentially responsible for planning and delivery, implementation and supervision of the overall venue logistics operations at Lusail Stadium, which includes bumping in spaces and getting areas ready and the coordination with various functions and suppliers to develop an integrated supply chain to ensure effective operations. It’s all about effective communication and collaboration with various work streams, teams and stakeholders.”
But it can’t all be that easy to be in a foreign country and away from family and friends.
Petersen shared her coping mechanisms.
“Working abroad is always an exciting opportunity to experience diverse cultures and environments — to meet and work with people from all over the world.
“I have an incredibly supportive family and circle of friends who all support this path that I am on – they are my biggest cheerleaders.
“My husband, Robin, and kids, Tess and Ross, understand that this is my passion. I am grateful that I get to explore these opportunities with their blessing.
“When the kids were younger, my parents were always at the ready to help and take a greater role as active grandparents, especially when I was not home.
“Proudly, my daughter Tess is forging her own path in the Events Industry, which is both amazing and scary to watch – but on the occasions when we work together, we are magic.
“Ross is navigating his way in the sports coaching arena – largely influenced by my brother Raven, who is a specialist football coach.
“I have no doubt that my “not so little kids” are going to leave their own mark in the world.
She added: “Of course, I miss them all dearly, but I have worked very hard to get to the point where my CV is picked up from a pile of hundreds or thousands, and I am afforded these opportunities where I can represent on a global arena as a proud South African female of colour. The girl from Retreat is now in Doha, and then on to the next.”
By the end of October, there were 18 South Africans working directly on the project and countless others who are contracted in via agencies and third parties or other stakeholders.
Petersen has had to find balance in her routine in Qatar. She said she often tried to get in some sight-seeing when she wasn't on the grind.
“I have tried to find a balance between work, social and wellness.
“I enjoy reading, so have brought a few books with me and have my kindle, so always finding a few minutes to escape into those pages is a great way for me to switch off.
“ I have always had a secret passion for writing and sharing my thoughts, so we’ll see what happens to all the ramblings at some later stage.
“It has been lovely walking and exploring the various precincts and getting to know the city better in the evenings when the weather is cooler and more people are out and about.
“When you’re away from home, its also important to make an effort to build personal relations and find people that you can connect with that allows you to socialise for simple catch ups or to plan activities.
“As much as I am very comfortable with my own company, I am also a creature who loves people and connecting, so I found myself a new little tribe here, some cool people from all across the globe who have some common interests and like hanging out together when time allows in between everyone’s schedules.”
Petersen also enjoys exploring the museums, galleries, shopping malls and other attractions.
She said: “Katara Cultural Village and the National Museum of Qatar was a lovely way to gain insight into Qatar’s history and the country’s cultural identity. The Corniche area is a favourite because though man-made, it reminds me of the long stretches of beaches with never-ending pathways and sea-facing areas like Kalk Bay and Sea Point, back home.”
She adds: “And in getting to know any city and its people, you have got to discover the foods right in Doha. There is no shortage of delicacies from around the world on offer, including some of the best flavours and treats from the Middle East region.”
Petersen boats an impressive CV with major events under her belt.
She said: “On the home front, a few memorable projects have included my role as the Executive Producer of the Fifa Fan Fest for Fifa World Cup 2010, then being a part of the Project Management Team for the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs), and of course, I love being a part of projects that are either music or sports-focused and even more so when it’s a combo deal like my work with the Paarl Rocks Franchise and Cricket Boland teams; working on Cape Town 10s Sport & Lifestyle Festival, as well as the Drift City Motorsport & Lifestyle Festival”.
“On the global stage, some of the highlights have been to work on the Special Olympic Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Pan American Games, Lima, Peru 2019, FINA Swimming World Championships 2021, a few editions of the Volvo Ocean Race stopovers in Cape Town and Abu Dhabi, and a few editions of stopovers for the World Triathlon Series stopovers in Cape Town and Abu Dhabi.
“One of the most special but sad projects was being a part of the team who produced Madiba’s Memorial Celebration at Cape Town Stadium in 2013.
She concludes: “And now, well, now I stand on the cusp of ticking another box on my list. The list is still long. There is still much to achieve.”