Day 13 : Slovenia v England

Day 13 – Unlucky for some.

It is getting like Groundhog Day, but alarm goes off and I jump out of bed. I know, just like yesterday, that and more sneaky shut eye will result in it being 3pm.

It is now 0715. We pay the hotel and pack the VW. Marc offers to drive. I sit in the back seat. Hood up, sunglasses on – the next thing I know are shrieks by the others when they pass giant monkeys on the road side. Have I just woken up in West Midlands Safari Park? These animals are massive!

I’m only awake for 2 minutes. The next thing I know we are on the home straight to Port Elizabeth. I saw all this two days ago. I now need my sleep!

Once more Port Elizabeth is quiet in the attendance of media. Getting a seat where I want is no issue at all.

Breakfast is the first port of call. Hot Chocolate, a banana and then an egg and bacon bap smothered in ketchup.

I finish or rather re-edit from the off my work from the previous day of France v South Africa. Pity I was so tired and missed some nice shots to send out on the day.

I go outside in the hope of doing the job a photographer should do – documenting what he sees – but there is not much visually interesting to warrant me even putting my eye to the camera, let alone firing off some frames.

Gone are the days when hoards of young men with scarfs and boots would assemble in mass at an England International. The people arriving to day seem to be like tourists leaving a tube station in London intent on visiting a museum – with a handful carrying flags or wearing an England shirt.

It’s not exactly like in Tokyo where hundreds of fans would wait on the platform of the Shinkansen waiting for the bullet train. Although the media are kept safe, once again it is annoying when we can not mingle with the fans to document this World Cup. I will have to try harder another time.

I go into the stadium.

I shoot my now customary small feature on Shrewsbury Town flags in the stadium. Again there are three. The Shrewsbury fans have done well. There are not many clubs with more than three flags on display.

Anthems and team groups are important. If England lose then this may be an historic day and Mr Capello’s last ever game.

I go to my seat and am amazed at the amount of space I have. I have forgotten on what it is like to be able to have some elbow room.

England come strong but fail to score. Already I have enough dejection and sad pictures should England lose. I forsake some great action in the hope of getting a goal.

Finally England score! Defore bags one in my end and runs past with his arms out. I can not ask for anything more really. Its not a ‘exclusive’ – pretty much every photographer must have had it. If the big wire agencies like Reuters, AFP and Getty have it then I’m screwed in any hope of getting this picture in the English press tomorrow.

Second half sees Fabio become even more animated. He is a stark contrast to the statue-like Sven Goran Eriksson who was the boss at Germany 06.

England attack and attack. It’s an amazing atmosphere – or is it? One thing for sure is that I hear a roar when Gerrard breaks forward. The England crowd drown out the Vuvuzela. How refreshing. How humble we all feel!

England fight off any last ditch attempt from Slovenia and win 1-0. Celebrations are upbeat. Capello the focus as he hugs Wayne Rooney and co.

Editing takes until 8pm.

I get the important pictures of the goal and celebration but everything else seems wishy washy. Id gladly take the important images over other things but feel I have little else to offer.

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We have a 1000KM+ drive back home. We stop for a fill up just outside PE.

I opt to drive as I have done this drive before and the roads are initially dangerous and dark. White cats eyes become red when I reach the brow of a hill. Police and lorry drivers encourage you to over take in pitch black going over double white lines – something I would not dream of doing at home. Speed does not matter. I drive as fast as I deem it safe to do so. We go down a straight that lasts for over 40km. There is NOTHING on the road, only us and few passing lorries.

Radio 2000 keeps us occupied. We try and listen to the evening games. The commentary is shocking. I can not even begin to describe how bad it is. All four of us in the VW have simply no idea on any of the scores. At one moment we think Argentina is winning 2-0 then we think we hear it is 0-0. The commentary is not commentary – it is just waffle. The only redeeming feature of this poor radio are two female anchor girls who talk eloquently about the goings on – tactics, formations, attempts at goals and then lots of intelligent speculation. They grossly let themselves down though in thanking their male counterparts for their excellent work.

As we reach the mountains, the radio signal drops. We have to chat to keep ourselves awake. We quiz Joe the American on a variety of things. I can only think of Denny’s – a favorite restaurant of mine in the USA! My hunger is quenched by Marc’s offer of chocolate – he is nearly through his fourth bar – but we are in nearly our 6th hour on the road. Joe comments that the if he would go back to the USA he would not take back the UK health and safety laws and our bad teeth. We talk random nonsense, but it is interesting random nonsense.

I get to hear about States in the USA who have a no blame policy. Hence, you can not sue someone if you spill hot coffee over you as you should have been told that the coffee was hot. South Africa is like the UK 20 years ago. No blame culture in evidence – just common sense. We all discuss how terrible our country has become and how only those who leave it can see it.

I once again think of the cheap second hand cars we see in the cities and towns that we pass. How I would do anything to drive home from here. Not that I am fed up and want to escape, but the thought of driving North through unchartered territories, West into Cameroon, back North – East in to Morocco and up to Spain seems an exciting prospect. Perhaps if the volcano in Iceland goes off again, I can have my wish!

We get to Bloemfontein and it is time to fill up again. Marc takes the reins. My stint is over. I drink a litre of Orange juice and sleep. I wake up and see thick dawn fog. They are not making much progress. My eye lids close once more and the next time they open we are 2km from our lodge.

It is 0830am. I need sleep, but it is time to get up. I meet Cath and Simon and we discuss car issues again. The logistics of this trip is taking over my life. I just want to take pictures and almost be alone without any responsibility.

I opt for sleep and bid the others leaving the house for the Paraguay game a good game.

Once more, my alarm cuts short my sleep. I’m too tired to dream. I just shut my eyes then open them again when I hear the alarm.

Yohei my friend from Tokyo calls me about the game today. I still think it is tomorrow and refer to it as tomorrow. Yohei thinks Japan are playing today – well they are but for me it is still tomorrow.

I have a hot stinking bath. It is so relaxing I snooze for a while. Too many times at home I snooze in the bath and wake up in cold water! This time I have more responsibilities as I have to drive others to the important fixture in Rustenburg between Denmark and Japan.

I realise I can have 20 more minutes before I HAVE to be on the road. I set my alarm and close my eyes for the final time of the ‘day’. It is in essence, 12.10PM!

For some England fans, today was an important day. For me it was just another day at the World Cup. Day 14 awaits….

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2 responses to “Day 13 : Slovenia v England

  1. a retired civil servant

    ganbatte kudasai

    Ashton-san

  2. Well done Matthew, the really hard bit is nearly over (groups), give yourself a couple of days off, don’t cover every knockout game, it’s only England, whoever semis, and final. I know you’re doing the Multi-national, but hold a bit in, Best, Mike

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