Day 2 : England v USA

Today we all woke up before our alarms went off.

Perhaps it was the excitement of todays epic contest, or simply the fact we are all used to having a maximum of 6 hours sleep and when we are in overtime our bodies wake us up.

The game was in Rustenburg. A town North of Johannesburg but rather advantageous that we drive via Pretoria to the North West then cut back to this venue using the motorway. The “A” roads are full of hi-jacking hot spots and although longer in distance, the journey time is far less using the wider and straighter roads.

We arrived very very early! 10.30am for a 20.30pm kick off. I got my corner flag spot which I used my 600mm lens and a 70-200mm lens. Still catching up, I spent a long time chatting to one of our photographers about the new Shrewsbury Town manager Graham Turner and was dealing with requests from Italy.

We found a surprisingly nice media center refreshments area. With Stan Collymoore also queuing up for some much needed food, I had a huge plate of carrots towering over some lamb and potato. It was 2pm and this was the first thing that I had eaten all day.

The skies above Rustenburg create killer sunsets so I was eager to be out and capture the goings on as the sun went down. Most of the fans seemed like they were going to a pop concert and had just walked off the streets. There was no rivalry and no bad taste in the air. In fact I’d probably call it bland.

© Matthew Ashton/AMA Sports Photo Agence

It wasn’t a portfolio shot but I like to capture what people watching on TV never see.

As the teams came out and the subs headed towards the benches, I had quite a long chat under the circumstances with goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann about his remote control aircraft and if he was missing home.

I’m currently learning to fly remote control helicopters and on most days after training Marcus and other members of the Wolves squad fly their models in the garden of the USA goalkeeper.

Soon the game was underway and for me it was Deja Vu. When England played in their opening match v Paraguay last time in Germany, as they say in my trade, ‘I cleaned up”. A celebration picture was used on the front pages of 7 National newspapers and in a few more on the back.

Steven Gerrard opened the scoring and thankfully ran straight towards me.

I was blocked for the goal but got a nice frame similar to my Ole Gunnar Solksjaer picture of Gerrard celebrating the opening goal.

It was used big on the Japan FIFA site.

Getting snaps of the Americans was just as important as getting fresh images of the England players.

I was spending a lot of time on Fabio Capello.

One Italian newspaper had a good collection of images of Maradona from the Argentina game earlier and wanted to mirror it with that of Capello.

© Matthew Ashton/AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

By half time it was job done – but that was before the equalising goal.

Now being a sports photographer, although you are obviously in the stadium, on occasions you simply have no idea what is going on. I had this again with England when they played Sweden in the last World Cup. On that day, Rooney was making his first appearance and after 2 minutes I had a really really nice action picture that I was very proud of. I cropped and captioned it, looked up, there was a break in play and thought nothing of it and carried on sending this sequence of pictures with dollar signs in my eyes.

At the start of the second half, I realised Michael Owen was missing. Upon returning to the media center I watched in horror as I saw him get injured and leaving the game. I had had my head in the computer and had made the school boy error of not being aware of what was going on.

Cue Clint Dempsey at Rustenburg. I was down the other end to be fair, but Dempsey apparently had a shot and it was fumbled by Robert Green. Again like the last World Cup, I had no idea on what was happening. I just thought it was a goal and was unaware of the mistake the England goalkeeper had made.

The second half was a mixture of trying to get extra special action pictures and also feature images for magazines that we supply.

As it got colder I snapped away at fans in front of Shrewsbury Town, WBA and Wolves flags. A full set for the teams we regularly cover.

Now listen up kids – this is the bit where you have to sit down and realise what I do is a job. At the end of the final whistle, I had visions of my mates back home ordering another pint in the pub or going for something to eat or switching the telly off and doing something instead. Us photographers have to work! And work hard and damn quick!

I was badgering my fellow housemates to leave the stadium at midnight. We had a 7am start for the next fixture the following day. To be fair to them they packed up and we crossed the duel carriage way outside the stadium and walked across the red sandy car park to my trusted Nissan something or other – I don’t do cars.

Pitch black, Tom Tom said an ETA of 2.30am.

We drove out of the stadium complex and encountered local Police sitting on the side of the road with no cares as hundreds of cars were made to stop on red lights letting imaginary and invisible conveys through. If that was bad enough thousands of fans were still walking in the pitch black to the park and ride spots with huge busses trying to sneak past the queuing cars for the motorway.

What followed was probably at a time most of my friends were on last orders, thinking of going to a club or switching the light off and getting some Zeds. The road out of Rustenburg resembled a scene out of a film of Biblical proportions. Thousands of cars queued for over 80KM on the single track road to Johannesburg.

I fondly now remember at 2.08am (Radio Luxemburg frequency! – 208) going at 100 km per hour for the first time.

Some cars were flooring it down the hard shoulder and one of the reasons we were in the mother of all traffic jams was because of what must have been a death crash on an unlit junction.

After dropping other photographers off at their places of residences, I personally hit the sack at 4.50am!

As the Italians woke up to see my front page pictures of Fabio, I set my alarm for 06.50am for I was the driver of the vehicle taking 5 photographers to Polokwane for the Algeria v Slovenia fixture.

Back home this game would be discussed, featured and talked about for days. For me it was over. Algeria and Slovenia were the focus for me.

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6 responses to “Day 2 : England v USA

  1. Nice report, seems as it is a harder job than it looks 🙂

  2. Well done Matt, nice cele pics. Go spend it on a few Castle Beers when you get a chance!

  3. Nice work, Matt.

    Will put a few links to it out there.

    Let me know if any other colleagues in ZA, snappers or blunts, have similar blogs or are Tweeting.

  4. Supurb stuff again Matt

  5. Great words Matt, really enjoyed reading that, have bookmarked this page and will look forward to reading the rest of your world cup musings

  6. Great work mate.

    With those pictures you can buy STFC a new striker! 🙂

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