After putting the bad day of yesterday behind me, we set off at 5am to the airport for a flight to Cape Town using Mango Air.
We had made plans initially to drive the 14 hour journey due to the incredible price increases by the local airlines.
On most normal days, you can get a flight from Cape Town to the capital of Johannesburg for around £45-£60. This is great and encourages tourists to visit the entire country of South Africa, like I have many times.
However the World Cup Dollar has resulted in prices being as high as £600. When 4 or 5 photographers are travelling it makes economic sense to drive!
Unlike the airline Kulula who we had contacted whilst in the UK about taking expensive photographic equipment on board, like EasyJet back home, Mango Air is the unofficial photographers airline. This is simply because they let us take our photographic equipment as carry on.
Crazy and idiotic rules about airline carry on makes the average photographer’s blood boil. Uneducated check in staff say we can not take on a 400mm lens for safety reasons, yet it is totally OK to buy two litres of whisky and bash someone over the head with that instead!
If more airlines operated like Mango then the world would be a better place. I guess the average person reading this does not care, but for the photographer carrying sometimes US$30,000 worth of equipment that no insurance company will insure properly and indeed NO airline will take responsibility of the equipment when it is in the hold, carry on is the only solution.
We met a nice Belgian reporter who is still to get his luggage from when he arrived. If we turn up at Cape Town and do not have our work tools then quite simply it is pointless us being here.
Upon arriving at Cape Town, although the welcome desks were friendly we immediately smelt a rat and did not have any confidence in their knowledge of media transportation – thus we got a cab with a very nice Indian man.
Table Mountain greeted us with Signal Hill popping around the corner as we drove into this Miami like city.
Once inside the media tent, we could have been anywhere – Polokwane, Johannesburg or Nelspruit, the all look the same and have the same layout.
Some photographers walked the 30 minutes to the popular Waterfront in Cape Town, returning with comments that it was packed and too many jumped up and excited fans making it impossible to create some serious in-depth photographic feature work.
Myself and Adam made attempts to enter into the stadium but it was sealed off because of the impending arrival of HRH Prince Harry and William of Wales.
When I came to Cape Town in December and had a tour given by the German architects who designed the stadium, I was looking forward to shooting some pictures on wide open spaces the surround the stadium. I also wanted to see what had happened to the golf course that once occupied this space. In December there was talk that the once epic 18 hole course would be reduced to a 3 hole course! However the British royalty arrivals kept us penned in like suspected football hooligans.
All my enthusiasm for shooting disappeared and the afternoon was spent going through my pictures from the day before listening to Simple Minds bash out New Gold Dream live in Amsterdam last year – another concert that I could not attend due to work commitments.
Time came to enter the stadium. We assumed that the Royalty had arrived and it was deemed safe to enter the stadium.
Again an amazing stadium, a bit smaller than Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena but a bit bigger than the Emirates at Arsenal, surrounded with a cloth like bowl material.
Algeria fans were in full voice. Some preying.
England fans represented the era we are now in. None of the terrace boys were there, just people content to sit on seats expecting a spectacle as if they were at a theatre.
The stadium was filled with flags – today I spotted three Shrewsbury Town flags!
As the teams came out I asked Shrewsbury born and bred Joe Hart to put his feet together so that I could shoot his personally styled football boots.
When Joe was at Shrewsbury and was selected by then manager Kevin Ratcliffe to travel with the first team whilst still being at my old school, Meole Brace, I’m sure sitting on the bench at a World Cup Group game in South Africa, representing his country wearing branded and personalised boots and gloves was only a distant dream.
The along with about 100 other lenses, Beckham got a reprise as the focus turned to Harry and William. This Royal Paparazzi stuff is easy when they are sitting targets in a VIP area in a stadium!
With foreign newspapers interested in the British Royal Family as much as the football, I quickly sent out 4 pictures of the Royal brothers cheering on their home nation.
With Robert Green dropped I opted to do Algeria attack first half. I had plenty to shoot with England lucky to be going in 0-0 at half time.
The second half came. The England fans began to get restless. England could not break down the Algerians at all. If I had been photographing Japan or someone I would have shot this game differently but each time the England forwards got into the penalty area I used a 70-200mm lens in an attempt to capture a goal.
I missed so many reactions I was not a happy bunny.
I was playing a game of lottery with myself, should I stay on my 400mm and get a nice tight close up reaction image but run the risk of getting the all important moment when a shot or header results in the winning goal and everyone back home going crazy thinking that England are going to win the World Cup??!
The referee eventually ended the second half. Rooney went to a TV camera but Frank Lampard blocked my shot. Boos replaced the Vuvuzela as the England team left the field with only a point.
A quick edit was then followed with the task of getting back to the airport. I had sent 102 pictures to the English newspapers. I was getting to the point of sending images for the sake of it. Our return flight awaited us.
11 photographers could not be wrong in waiting at midnight for a bus that did not turn up to take them to the airport.
We had all been told that shuttle busses would transport us back to the airport until 2.30.
The last shuttle bus actually departed at 11.40am.
Thankfully some very helpful and understanding people working in the media centre got us some transport. Getting a taxi was impossible. The roads were blocked for about 3km and they were letting no taxi’s for poor stranded photographers or journalists in at all!
As we passed ex-England manager Graham Taylor giving an open session to journalists on why England had only drawn against the African Champions, our rants were substituted with thank-you’s and praise for the staff who got us on 2 mini vans.
Ito, our Japanese photographer had a flight in less than 90 minutes to Durban for his nations game against the Netherlands the next day. The last thing he needed was to be stranded in Cape Town.
Upon arrival at the airport, friendly Mango Air people accommodated our requests for window seats. One check in lady spotted lots of foreign money in my wallet. I still had some money from Belarus in there from when England actually looked like they were a good team. I gave her 2 notes which equalled to about 10 UK pence.
Following simple and effective security checks – not the utter OTT ones we see at London Heathrow, we sat in a nice restaurant watching the Ghana match. Another nice Belgian journalist sat beside us and we talked a little Belgian football with the excuse that Standard Leige were poor this year was a result of a lack of money.
At 2.15am we boarded our flight. I sat in 22A. Rested my head against the window and shut my eyes.
The next thing I knew was a big bump and the pilot saying “Welcome to Johannesburg”. I like the fact I sleep well on aeroplanes!
Five of our housemates then re-united in the airport and played the game of finding the car in the airport.
24 hours earlier we thought it would be easy to find it! One floor out and going in an elevator one block too early meant that we did not get home until 5.30am.
With the impending sunrise about to happen, I made sure the curtains were firmly closed.
I went to bed wanting to dream about a South Korea v North Korea final. Germany lost today, France are awful, England are terrible, Spain lost the other night. Go Korea I say!