Day 7 : Argentina v South Korea

After hitting my head on the pillow last night, my iPhone woke me up at what seemed moments later.

It was 6.45. Again no lie in. No contemplating a bit more shut-eye, I must have been outside in less than 15 seconds. It was then I woke up. It was cold! The car was covered in ice. I quickly woke up.

I don’t feel tired and jaded though. I actually felt wide awake. I have not slept for more than 8 hours for a month now. My body has adjusted to not having lie-ins!

Yesterday the temptation of bad motorway food – crisps, mars bars and coke resulted in a groggy day. Its healthy food all the way now on. I can not comprehend the difference in my health when I eat badly at the moment.

Simon and Mark appeared out of our lodge and we were in the car in no time. Mark was being transported to the airport for a flight to Cape Town. Myself and Simon went on to Soccer City to catch up on work and also Simon was doing a feature for Zoo Magazine with the ITV people.

We crawled into Soccer City at 0830h. It was time to collect our tickets.

This was Argentina v South Korea.

When visiting the old photo agency Allsport as a student, my claim to fame was that I had held an original slide taken by Dave Canon of Maradona skipping over a defender from Mexico 86. Perhaps today I too would take an iconic image from an Argentina v South Korea game.

In this World Cup it is first come first served. In previous world cups, photographers were put into priority groups. Group 1 being the host nation, and the competing teams. Group 2 being international agencies and photographers and everyone else Group 3.

There is no easy and logistical way to appease everyone – however at Johannesburg they had the questionable scheme of handing out tickets randomly.

This created more problems that it solved.

Photographers are usually split into 2 categories. One lot who need to capture the goals and who sit behind the goal, and the other who are there for nice magazine pictures and mostly sit on the side. We all work together. Being told what to do sometimes does not work, especially when told where to sit by people who do not understand how we all work.

Also with today’s game being a midday kick off the issue of the sun and shadow was also important in choosing our positions.

In the end, myself and Simon were given positions on the side. Although extremely grateful for being given a ticket at all, it was still very frustrating being told to sit in a position I would normally not sit in for a game of this magnitude.

Myself and others question the merits of this system. We politely explain how we shoot, showing on a plan of a football pitch how we cover certain areas using different lenses and by pointing to pictures of South Africa on the wall explained with stats that 60% of football is in the middle of the park, some need and like and prefer to sit on the side – but the response we get is, “If you are not AFP or Getty then we tell you where to sit here – and any way, I thought you boys simply shoot and then photoshop in everything afterwards”

I was gobsmacked. I walked away in fear that my response would result in my accreditation being revoked. At the end of the day I was happy to be in Soccer City but did not like or agree with the protocol.

I had looked at other photographers work from the Netherlands v Denmark game and got excited about the prospect of shooting Messi in this amazing light.

The next three hours was spent editing yesterdays game and then trying to identify the substitutes of North Korea using FIFA’s official website.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

Time was ticking by. I had enough. I am here to take pictures too and my cameras were still in my bag.

I went outside and was greeted with the sight of  thousands of colourful Argentinian fans.

Although my home country of England has a less than amazing historical relationship with Argentina – Falkland Islands, Maradona Hand of God etc – I personally do like Argentina.

Although Boca Juniors play in Shrewsbury Town’s colours of yellow and blue, my heart lies in the River Plate camp.

Argentina steak is amazing and everyone I have ever met from Argentina have been friendly and so kind.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

Dressed up in sky blue and white in an amazing midday sun with a deep blue sky I was kicking myself for spending so much time catching up on the computer when I should have been outside.

It was time to go back inside the Soccer City stadium.

Being an honorary Japanese citizen I tend to ‘ignore’ the ‘enemy’ of South Korea, but upon entering into the stadium I met a great guy with a fantastic painted face and colourful wig and some South Korean girls.

I saw a great picture in my mind and quickly tried to capture it – girl on the right with a panoramic of Soccer City going off into the left – however some South Korean photographers spotted me and ran into my shot with wide-angle lenses and completely ruined my master piece.

Swearing at them was pointless – they did not understand anyway!

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

This world cup seems to have a slower and friendly pace to it. In Germany it was rush rush rush. I can not remember France that well and in Japan – well I was just on cloud nine in being there.

People seem to be engaging more with each other I feel – especially the fans. Perhaps they feel less uncomfortable in South Africa and unite more together.

When Princess Diana sadly died, the abuse us photographers got was disgraceful. As a stark contrast the fans seem to not only be willing to have their picture taken which coming from England where the Government and Police seem to class you as a terrorist if you have a camera, the fans are so more chatty and friendly.

So many times in just this first week, I am amazed at how people WANT to have their pictures taken! How people STEP ASIDE and let you do your craft. It’s a joy to be away from the UK where people are just sensible and not over protective.

I was having a really nice chat with the painted face fella about the World Cup and Park who plays for Man U and when asked if I had been to South Korea the girl joined in – we must have chatted for ten minutes.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

If I had have been in Seoul, I doubt I would have had the opportunity to meet such great people – I almost asked for their email address or Facebook names as they were so nice. But with this job, you meet lots of great people and the hardest part is saying goodbye.

I went pitch side and took more pictures of the amazing Argentinian fans.

All those haters of this great country should have been at Soccer City – you certainly don’t see England fans create an atmosphere like this, well I don’t think so anyway.

This was one of the rare moments when it was a genuine pleasure doing what we do.

Most of the snappers concentrated on a blonde girl with a cropped to holding an amazing replica of the World Cup trophy.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

I of course joined in, but was intrigued at an old guy with a big bass drum! I took some snaps of it and went on my way.

Finally, Maradona awaited my lens! I took my position and went to the dug outs for the national anthems.

Again some photographers had perfectly constructed shots using 600 and 400mm lenses but others with ultra wide-angle lenses steamed in and ruined it for everyone.

Patience is a good thing sometimes in our job and once these guys had got their shot and the South Korea national anthem kicked in, it calmed down a bit and most people got their shot.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

The game kicked off with Argentina attacking strongly. As the game went on the shadow moved around the pitch, the Argies were 2-0 up. Korea pulled one back and the second half awaited.

The second half kicked in and again I was troubled with the Vuvuzelas. I wanted to sample the amazing atmosphere generated by the Argentinians. I wanted to be reminded of what it was like when I did as game at River Plate, but the singing was drowned out by these now annoying horns. I don’t mind it when Bafana Bafana (South Africa play) – it is part of their culture.

Arguments broke out in our section – photographers using lens hoods which were blocking the views of others.

Many photographers at today’s game were seemingly unable to meter using their camera and constantly checked their pictures on the back of their cameras. How I wished for film cameras again. Light like this certainly set the men from the boys.

The old pro’s I see never check their LED screens. After a nice tackle many of the photographers are seemingly impatient enough to view their capture and resort to sticking their lenses out so that they can see the back of their screens – totally unaware something else is happening on the field. It makes my blood boil.

Forget it – the iphone came out and my amazing Sony earphones. It wasn’t the day for Transglobal Underground, Simple Minds, Faith No More – nothing seemed to fit in as a soundtrack to what my eyes were seeing  – randomly I put on Tubula Bella by Mike Oldfield! Dont ask! But it worked.

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

Messi and co drove on and won 4-1. Messi creating the third goal and celebrating right in front of the place I would have chosen when I arrived at the stadium 6 hours earlier.

It put me in a bad mood.

Upon the final whistle I decided to edit in the media centre.

My bad mood went into severe depression. A heat haze not seen by the naked eye resulted in 90% of all my images being out of focus.

My days work was wasted.

I found about 5 action pictures to meet the demands of some of my clients but creative snaps of Messi and Heinze were only worthy of the trash can.

Perhaps I should have checked my images too – but then I was trapped and could not have moved anyway.

I thought I was in a bad mood! A colleague and very good mate of mine (who supports Stoke City) came in with a face like thunder. After a barrage of expletives, he explained on how the stock image boys with 500 and 600 lenses who normally sit on the side were sat behind the goal and had blocked his view for the goals.

There are some photography legends at this world cup. There are also some muppets. Today I was sat next to one.

For the entire second half he was looking at his computer connected to the stadium wifi reading a forum on how to work his Sony camera. Like who uses a Sony camera for stills anyway? He could not understand the verbals from me and a Reuters photographer sitting next to me! The Reuters photographer went straight to the top of my Christmas card list for his rants – and rightly so!

I kind of felt better, especially when other photographers around me moaned about the light, out of focus pictures and the vuvuzelas – at least I had Mike Oldfield to stop that one!

© Matthew Ashton / AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

I had nearly finished editing but noticed a female’s face on the Argentinian fans’ drum. At that point I looked up and saw an Argentinian girl photographer who I had sat next at Brazil v North Korea 2 days earlier.

I have a confession. I never wrote about something funny that happened at a recent game!

I was leaning over to talk to Mr Hara – a good Japanese photographer friend – when I fell back on my chair.

Somehow I rebalanced myself and managed to stay upright much to the amusement of this Argentinian snapper. She was laughing so much it started one of the TV cameramen off laughing too.

I went over with my laptop and was promptly asked if I had fallen over today! After some banter, the photographer told me that the face on the drum was Eva Peron. Evita – of course!

At the same time almost, we all hit the wall. We were all fed up and hungry and decided it was time to leave.

We left nearly 12 hours after our arrival – I still had not finished editing properly.

My friend Luigi needed our custom. Eight of us piled in to the greatest Pizza establishment in Africa and tucked in to some much-needed fuel.

Spirits were raised with banter and stories and we all went home smiling.

Five of us had to be up at 5 for flights to Cape Town the following day, but the temptation of the World Cup on the TV was too much. We watched in amazement as Mexico defeated France and then marvelled in the other game which I can not now remember!

Then came on our game – Argentina v South Korea.

Even better John Helm was commentating. The last time I had seen John was at the last match of the Football League season when we were both at Burton Albion v Grimsby. In my mind John Helm is the best commentator.

Sitting in our lodge watching TV, the light looked gorgeous. The game looked great.

How I wished I was there shooting pictures!

But I had been.

We tried talking about how good it looked on TV and how those judgemental picture editors and photographers back home would be expecting sensational images.. but decided it was best not to!

We had another game tomorrow and this fixture would be quickly forgotten! Day 7 had been a waste of time.

The final is under floodlights, that is all that matters!

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One response to “Day 7 : Argentina v South Korea

  1. He really was reading the manual for his camera, on his computer? I’m totally amazed!

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