Day 14 : Denmark v Japan

I eventually get up and muster the courage to open the door and feel the cold – its cold!

I spend 10 minutes trying to find one of the Japanese but then realise he is already at the stadium with Ito who has been following the Japanese Princess around all day. The Japanese Princess being a keen photographer and using one of his cameras in South Africa! I have ‘seen’ the Japanese Princess before but never met her. I have been to her house, but have never gone inside.

I’m expecting another meeting, but my hair is a mess and I have scruffy snotty clothes and somehow I think it won’t happen!

I go and collect a Mexican from their house up the road. It’s now 13ooh. I meet up with Omar. I have known him for years. He tells me all about the Mexican football league en route, I’m genuinely interested. He also fires up my passions telling me that the next Copa America is in Argentina next year. Passionate crowds – no vuvuzelas – what more could I want!

I know today is Denmark v Japan. It takes me a little while to actually remember what I did yesterday. I have no bloody clue what is in store for tomorrow at the moment!

We swap stories about a fellow ‘sleepy’ photographer that we both know – he wins the story-off with an epic consisting of the person in question falling asleep with a 400mm lens high up at the back of the stands at a tennis tournament.

We arrive in Rustenburg on time, but have a few moments of panic with cars over taking long big lorries on single tracked roads. Today seems weird. It is as though I can not comprehend people after the amount of driving done recently when we have been quite literally the only vehicle on the road.

I was impressed with Denmark. I adore Japan. I know more about the Japanese subs bench than the England one! Perhaps I was too tired, but I fully admit I had to ask someone to ID Michael Dawson the other day! I expect a good game. Someone on the blog comments about why I do Chile v Switzerland. I kind of get angry assuming that they believe only the ‘big game’ matches are worth doing. So far the majority of all the lesser games have been great.

I know outside shines the sun. There is a deep blue crisp sky. There are hundreds of Japanese people and many Danish who would make excellent feature pictures. However I opt to stay in the media centre and do some travel homework. The group stages are nearly over. We need flights to certain destinations.

Comments from other photographers at other stadiums have been about the fact that some South Africans are now ‘fed up’ with the tournament and have lost interest. I have yet to witness this myself but I begin to question where the amazing friendly attitudes have gone when I call some local airlines.

The big day in question is the semi finals. It is logistically impossible to drive from Cape Town to Durban in time to cover both games. I want to cover both games. In Germany the local authorities made it possible for the media to travel on their excellent rail networks. In Japan everything was not an issue with the Shinkansen. In France, anything was drivable. South Africa on the other hand – perhaps a prelude to Brazil 2014 – is a little bit more difficult to say the least. We have to rely on airlines.

As stated before these airlines in normal daily life offer a great service. It is very cheap to fly. In the past 6 months of planning we have encountered prices going up to £600 for a normal £40 flight. Now there are no flights at all. Organisers and people responsible have assured us that all will be fine. Today I realise that all is not fine.

Mango Air have no plans to put on more flights. Even though they admit they are getting lots of requests they seem unwilling to help and do nothing about it. A stern email is sent.

South African Airways again have a tremendous amount of flights scheduled – but then again they do on ANY day of the week. I ask to speak to people high up regarding media quotes as I feel I need to write a story about this – I give up and assume that I would have more luck getting an exclusive with Mandela.

Valeria one of the photographers from Germany comes up trumps with a fantastic website for flights, but although it assists us for other games, coverage of the semi finals are still in the air.

There are 30 minutes until kick off. I regret not shooting Japanese fans and indeed Danish fans – but needs must.

Today is a big game. I want to do well. We are pressing on a new client interested in big Asia Cup coverage next year. I love the Asia Cup. It is my favorite tournament. Many people who know me know of my passions for Japan. They are my adopted team.

They get off to an amazing start against Denmark. I would not be surprised if Denmark win 4-0 but Japan show their strength.

Endo scores another from a free kick. I have seen Endo play many times before and expect him to get close, but the ball curves around so much that he is as equally pleased with his goal as the fans in the stands.

Like the England match yesterday, I get the pictures to tell the story but my other pictures are weak. However again I would not swap what I have got for the other material. Feedback from Japan is encouraging that our pictures are being used, well liked and arriving on picture desks quicker than some of the bigger agencies who have invested more heavily than we have!

For show, myself and Kaz dance around the media centre shouting “NIPPON” as we realise Japan will face Slovakia in the next round. On paper to me it seems easier than Denmark.

Tonight was not too cold. Everything went OK. Colour balance was good. I say to the Nikon rep that a new lens he let me use was quite possibly the best thing since Nikon launched the F3. I want to keep it for ever but reluctantly hand it back.

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Then it is time to meet Nakayama. I have not seen Nakayama for over two years. The last time I saw him was under a haze of Saki in downtown Ginza in Tokyo. Today we are both a bit more sober!

Nakayama had flown an epic 22 hour flight from Japan to Johannesburg via Singapore to see four games – and then fly back home! He was going back the next morning. We drive back to our lodge – witnessing an amazing crash whilst at a petrol station.

Another day, another 80 or so pictures sent. Japan are through. Once again my bed awaits. This time it is 3.30am. I say goodbye again to Nakayama, wondering where the next time and place I will see him!

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