It was really great meeting up with some of the other housemates who I had not seen for what seemed like an age. We left in tired high spirits at 0730 for the 6 hour trip to Durban.
I was in the back seat. I shut my eyes and woke up starting at a big black Policeman with his eyes bellowing down on me. Our driver had been doing 131KMPH on a 120 highway. Three of the passengers followed our driver to the Policeman’s car, only to return soon after, a passing Porsche sped past and the Policeman then admitted that the car we were following was going faster than us, so we were let off.
Eyes shut, I woke for a second time during the first refill.
Eyes shut once more, I woke up again for a food break in another service station. Juicy Lucy’s provided us with egg and bacon baps and a strange avocado gunge on Steve’s offering.
Eyes shut again, I finally woke up on the approach road to Durban.
Deep crisp blue skies welcomed up to the city situated on the Indian Ocean. It was 27c. I was more glad that it was not raining.
It was 1310h. We had just under 3 hours until kick off. Some of the passengers had been to Durban already during this world cup. For me, this was my full house. I was about to shoot a match in all the stadiums of the FIFA 2010 World Cup. I had of course come here in December. I shot a feature at the new stadium during its opening game. I had spent 3 days in Durban, each like today – sunny with incredible blue skies. Game day though was a different affair. A monsoon decided to soak me during the 90 minutes of Amazulu United v Maritzburg in the South Africa Premier League.
We passed through the city – it felt good to be back. Durban is a thriving place, unlike Rustenburg, Polokwane and Nelspruit. We followed the signs directing officials and media to the stadium – and then hit traffic.
It seemed natural though. It was a Saturday afternoon, hundreds were going to the beach and Brazil were playing Portugal. However, it dawned on us that the new highway for the stadium was shut to cars and we had to drive with all the sun bathers along the coast road.
All was going well until we attempted to turn off at our parking exit, as indicated by the official FIFA World Cup signs – however a local transport cop was having none of it. Proudly standing in front of his shiny motor, wearing a cap, gun at his side, he flippantly indicated with his index finger to move on. One of our passengers protested but he had nothing of it, insisting we returned to the city, did a U-turn and go down the road where what seemed like 5000 people were heading for the beach.
Time seemed to be on our side until all the world cup traffic and all the beach traffic came to a standstill as Police with blue flashing lights insisted that they took the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee, represented by Chief Executive Officer Dr Danny Jordaan in the back of a Mercedes in a convoy. We ‘joined’ the back of it but soon became stuck once more.
After waving to girls sporting Portugal shirts walking to the game, commenting on the amount of cars who were following Jesus – letting us know with huge bumper stickers and scoffing the remaining chocolate we had in the car, I telephoned our Japanese photographer who had flown in to Durban who was currently in the media center.
I asked him to pass the phone onto the FIFA media people who kindly listened to our plight and put aside 5 passes for the 5 stranded snappers in our car. There was no way we would get there before the 1 hour cut off point when passes would be given on to photographers on the waiting list.
The traffic did not move. I felt that I was in the REM video, Everybody Hurts. People were getting out. Fans were walking to the stadium in their hundreds. We stood still. At half past three came and went. The game kicked off at four. No chance of shooting sellable Brazilian girls in football kits. We had done Brazil before but it was -2. The sun had brought them out.
Tim got out for another cigarette. We played the ‘we are important’ card and put the headlights on full beam with indicators flashing. We got past one car but then came to a standstill.
EVENTUALLY we got to the slip road. 99% of the traffic turned right to go to the beach. We went right and were greeted with wide open quiet roads. Flooring it, we continued to follow the signs and came to a road block which quite frankly should have been on the highway for the football traffic.
Now that South Africa have been knocked out, gone are the smiles. The Police trudge 25 meters to move a cone blocking our passage to the stadium. It seems to take like another 20 minutes. At the next road block we have had enough, show the parking pass and swerve past the unconcerned Police officers. No one seems to care. No one seems to help or be concerned.
Kings Park Stadium greets us. We park in its car park. Another topic of conversation on why the World Cup had to have another stadium built is put on hold but with myself and Steve having been in that stadium for football and rugby games, we pay our respects to it as its mighty stands hang over our car.
We race through to the media entrance. 8 Police guard the x-ray machine. A week ago they would have been smiling and helping us put our equipment through the x-ray. Myself and German Tim would have made them laugh with our killer line of “Dont worry the only arms we have, have our hands on the end” as we flapped our arms around. Today they did not laugh. They stared motionless as security guys scanned us with mobile sticks beeping and buzzing when encountering metal, but even if we had of a supply of arms (the gun sorts) Im confident we would have smuggled them in as no one cared.
We raced in convoy with our Think Tank trolley bags, like air hostesses running for a late plane. A lovely South African girl presented us with 5 tickets. “We have been waiting for you” she said. We tried explaining our plight, but she had heard it about a dozen times already. “We have no control over the Police” was her only comment.
We raced to the pitch. As my foot went on to the pitch, like clockwork, the players came on to the pitch. Some quick snaps of Deco and Co on the bench were interrupted by a SALOP flag, (Shrewsbury Town) hanging from the main stand.
For fans being in the city for the big ball game, I am sure their day was a life remembering day. For us, it was another pain in the ass game that passed us by.
0-0 it started.
0-0 it finished.
Some players ran around the park for 90 minutes as we snapped away.
How journalists would make this encounter sound exciting is beyond me. Perhaps they just harp on about how each team qualified as at the end of the day, this is all that mattered.
We went back into the media centre. Alan Green from Radio 5 Live looked fed up. I knew how he felt. A blonde TV reporter who goes to WBA now and then just stared blankly at me. I knew how she felt too!
Getty Images then came up to us moaning on how they had left their hotel at 11am and had the worst trouble ever going the short distance to the stadium. As I edited my pictures, which did not take long, news spread that one of the Getty guys had been robbed of all his camera equipment.
Just another coincidence that Brazil were playing? We are certain that some photographers arrive at tournaments with 1 camera and leave with 3.
We left at 9 and headed back North. It would take at least 6 hours.
This time it was black though, no light. The speed cameras trying to catch us going 50kmh in 40kmh zones as we approached the toll booths could not create more revenue for the area.
Lorries crawled up the steep mountains at 10KMPH as queuing traffic patiently over took one by one. The amazing landscapes were replaced by black holes.
I nodded off again and at some time during the return journey we stopped for some Saturday night food. I feasted on a large pizza full of BBQ Sauce, Ham, Bacon, Chicken and Beef. I made a purchase of yet another 2l bottle of Orange Juice.
We watched highlights of the Spain v Chile game. We had long given up on the commentary thanks to our inept friends on Radio 2000. As the pizza was munched we marvelled at David Villa’s goal. This World Cup looked quite exciting on TV!
We got back to our lodge at just past 3. I was now wide awake. I lept into action and sorted out travel logistics for the next day so that we could all go to sleep knowing what time tomorrows departure would be.
With great and amuzing banter en route, the Durban Traffic Police making certain today was not another Groundhog Day, the 90 minutes we had been traveling for was a complete waste of time. Ronaldo may have been playing for Portugal, Brazil may have been trying to score with Ricardo Carvalho keeping a tight defence but this ‘on paper’ classic was anything but.
In years gone past when I was a young boy, by now my wall charts would have been full with scorers and scores. I would know exactly who was playing who and who would probably play who en route to the final. Today I have no idea. If someone was to give me a list of all 48 games played so far, I probably feel confident that I could get the correct score of 12 of them, that’s all!
Tomorrow sees the Last 16. Lets hope that these remaining games provide us with great pictures and less of the sad stories about Police and Photographers getting gear stolen. Perhaps Groundhog Day is good after all!