Day 1 : South Africa 1-1 Mexico

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

Already I can not wait until a game in Johannesburg that kicks off at 2030 local time – it means a much needed lie in.

The schedule tells me Tuesday! Woo Hoo!!

Already two of us are run down, snotty and constantly tired.

The alarm goes at 0740 and without hesitation I jump out of bed.

No breakfast.

No time to chat.

We grab the car keys and go.

Although it is an afternoon kick off, I anticipate it to be chilly.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCYThe atmosphere and anticipation has been growing all week.

Hand on heart, I have not seen ONE SINGLE SHOP that does not have a FIFA World Cup reference to it.

We depart at 8am and floor it down the Johannesburg ring road and into Soccer City.

Surprisingly the traffic is quieter than the previous trips to the airport.

We start as we mean to move on and queue for match tickets. There is going to be lots of waiting and standing in queues on this adventure.

I get ticket 199 and head towards a table and get to work.

I first have to configure a new path to send images to the Official FIFA World Cup site in Japanese – I don’t know the address at hand!

This causes more problems as I have not been online for 5 days and find that someone from Norway is trying to hack into our database. He has no chance and they are kicked out.

Still full of Giraffe from last night catching up work takes me to midday. I get angry with myself as today is all about South Africa staging the first ever World Cup on African soil. But if I can not get my pictures out I question why I am here.

However I should be capturing the colour outside.

Test images to Japan and edits of Wolves pictures coupled with Skype calls with photographers back in England trapped on English roads due to crashes and lorry fires result in an opening day that I could have done without.

I down one hot chocolate and head to the stadium. I have been to Soccer City many times over the past year but this is the first game I have attended here.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

The light is simply gorgeous and I start snapping the fans.

I can’t go wrong. You don’t get light like this at Aston Villa!

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

Vuvuzelas, hats, smiling faces – its hard to choose which fan to concentrate on.

I get angry with some photographer shooting over my shoulder and stealing MY pictures!

This does not match the frustration at others running up steps to follow me shoot fans in the stands.

Am I a magnet? Why can’t people look and think for themselves?

The opening ceremony provides amazing TV pictures but shooting on the pitch it is impossible to capture the shapes of Africa made by the dancers dressed up in colourful uniforms.

Its eventually game time.

The Vuvuzelas hum like never before.

I have photographed many Kaizer Chief games in South Africa as well as the equally famous Ajax Cape Town and I thought that their fans were loud but this is something else.

The crowd listen in silence as Joseph Sepp Blatter gives a rousing speech. They love him.

Then the moment is finally here. Kick Off.

Mexico attack my end and I get an early action picture under my belt.

Seat 199 doesn’t match the hype or the atmosphere.

The first half passes everyone by really. Skype chats to other snappers dotted around the pitch asking how they are getting on erased half time boredom as no one has many pictures to send out.

Then my favorite South African play scores a goal!

Siphiwe Tshabalala of South Africa creates history making it 1-0. Siphiwe should be in the English Premier League. He has flair and pace and is a legend for the Kaizer Chiefs.

In seconds I send the picture out and am amazed at how quick it appears on some websites.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

Mexico pull one back to make it 1-1 but today is really all about the opening ceremony and the iconic moment that the started the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

I don’t care what the headline writers say about this one. I don’t really care about my pictures that much.

It’s just a case of getting this one under my belt. I don’t want to peak too early!

The game started at 4pm and by 9.30pm all the little things that I have been meaning to do all week have been sorted out.

My cameras now work – the South Africans robbed me of £1300 for servicing and repairs but to be fair they have done a good job and it feels like I have a new lens.

Facebooking friends can wait until tomorrow. Catching up with familiar faces can wait until tomorrow.

Today was not my day, it was South Africa’s day.

Tomorrow is USA v England. One of the photographers Joe is from Florida. Should the US win he will have one over his English colleagues. Im still shocked at a national radio station who urged South African fans attending the England game in Rustenburg to not only take sunglasses but welding goggles to protect their eyes from the white skin of the English fans taking off their shirts in the winter sunshine. IF that had of been broadcast in the UK regarding black people, surely they would have had the radio station shut down.

Personally here in South Africa, racism is ‘fun’. The blacks make fun of the whites and the whites make fun of the blacks. One black South African photographer calls a group of white photographers using black Nikon lenses as Zebras!

Cultural differences are everything though. Today is not the day to rant, its a time to celebrate – the World Cup is finally Alive and Kicking in South Africa.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

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2 responses to “Day 1 : South Africa 1-1 Mexico

  1. great photos Matt and enjoying the blog

    ade

  2. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!!

    I only just started reading your blog and I very much intend to read the whole whole cup experience through a photographer’s eyes

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