Day 16 : USA v Ghana

The alarm goes at 10. The snooze button is pressed. It goes off again. I’d better wake up.

I go into the lodge lounge to see Mark, he has arrived back from a few days in Cape Town.

He seems to be in good spirits. We all only have one game to cover today, it is a late kick off. I decide that I am hungry and cook some pasta.

Then our lodge alarm goes off. Within minutes an armed gentleman is standing in our lounge with four photographers who have just got out of bed. It turns out that one of the wires on our garden fence came loose, touched the other wire and set off the alarm.

The pasta is good as I put the remaining folders containing pictures on to an external hard drive. Boring stuff, but necessary.

We head off to Rustenburg shortly after 2pm. I’m in the silver Nissan today, we fill it up and purchase some cookies and more orange juice.

The road today is busy. We pass the Platinum factories and it seems to take an age to get to Rustenburg.

We park in the now familiar dusty car park and trek across to the media centre. This will be probably the last time that I come to Rustenburg. The first time I came here I wondered why such a big stadium was built-in a location like this. I still question it. A lady sits on a stool and has her hair braided outside Maria’s Hairdressers. My hair is getting long and I neet a cut, but I don’t think I will go to Maria’s!

I venture out into the fan area in search of some nice fan shots. I have missed the nice light. There is not much going on. Even the TV cameramen are struggling finding interesting footage.

A few fans against a dusk sky is all that I can muster up. We all take the long treck from the media centre to the stadium

Out of the door, across a bridge, down two flights of steps, back on ground level and 100 yards to an entrance past where the TV do their interviews and the journalists interrogate the coaches at the end of the game. Then it is down and through the smallest door in the world with a bit of wood protecting a birds nest of TV cables up above. Carry you cameras through here and they will be scratched and battered. Side step through a corridor, turn left and down more steps until you reach the stadium moat. Up about 20 yards before walking up a steep set of steps before going onto the pitch. And for good measure, more eager security people to check your pass even before lifting your foot on the last step.

Ghana today are sporting a Roy of the Rovers yellow and red kit. They look like RC Lens from France. USA are in all white.

As we congregate around the team benches, Marcus Hannemann the substitute goalkeeper of the USA and also of Wolverhampton Wanderers, comes up to say hello. He spots a flag sporting the name of a pub in Telford called the Red Lion. I point out to him a Wolves flag. We discuss how many people in the stadium know where the A5 is!

The teams come out and as the teams now do their customary singing to the anthems, the snappers snap away once more.

As we depart back to our positions, I notice Bill Clinton in the stands and grab a few frames.

Lots of photographers are now sporting World Cup beards. After my trip to the coast yesterday, like others, the altitude affects my nose again. I’m sniffling and snotting out blood again!

The game is a revelation.

Lots of action, goals and excitement.

I spot Mick Jagger now sitting next to Bill Clinton. I send some pictures out and 10 minutes later get a text from Italy saying thank you very much. It is nice to receive instant gratification for my work. I still have no idea what images are being used.

At the end of 90 minutes it is 1-1. Just what we need with an early start tomorrow morning! Not ungrateful, the game continues to provide great pictures. Ghana eventually win 2-1.

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It is now very cold. A full moon shines over the stadium as the mist rolls in. I remember a couple of weeks ago when the smallest of crescents could be seen in the clear night sky. The moon dominates the sky as we head back into the media centre.

I sit opposite Ben, beside him is Cath. Ito comes and sits beside us, opposite me but on the same table. The Italians head off and we comment that Italy can have Capello back tomorrow should England get defeated by Germany.

90 seconds later Ito perks up with a deep look of concern on his face. His camera bag has disappeared. We all go off looking but it is nowhere to be seen.

Another sad but familiar ending to a day in a media centre. As word gets around, we hear more stories of people being robbed. A Sport Illustrated journalist has had a laptop stolen. In Ellis Park a photographer had his bag taken. In Durban, a Getty Images photographer was robbed of his equipment.

Are there some photographers coming to tournaments with one camera body and going home with two? – or is the temptation just too much for the locals working alongside the world’s media?

I finish editing images and accompany Ito to the Police compound outside the stadium. It is bitterly cold. I suggest that we go indoors but the Police say no. They are packing up and seem reluctant to even listen. We peer through a letterbox shaped window and tell them what has happened. They ask us if we want to start an investigation or simply record that we have missing items. Myself and Ito both get confused. At the very least, Ito needs a Police report for his insurance company. A photocopied A4 piece of paper with scrawny handwriting by the Police Constable dealing with us is stamped and handed back. They don’t give us a postal address and we have to ask three times for a contact telephone number.

We return to the stadium cold. FIFA media officers offer their sadness but being realistic say there is nothing that they can do. Sports Illustrated sitting on the same table are angry as we are. We concoct plans that at the next game we will leave traps of equipment and wait behind media centre pillars ready to pounce with monopods to batter the thieves.

If there is some consolation, Ito had his hard drive containing his whole world cup shoots in another bag. Only his camera equipment was gone. We depart for home at 2am. Even though I had a nice lie in, it has been a long day along with extra time!

After others had told us of a bad crash that had seen coming to the stadium with people covered in blood trying to smash their way out of an over turned mini bus, we saw a motionless body on the dark road, presumably hit by a car parked near by.

As if we were not in the best of moods, Cath, Ito and myself were now stuck in a 100km traffic jam on Platinum Highway from Rustenburg to Pretoria.

We eventually arrive back at the lodge at 4.40. My alarm is set for 5.50.

My pictures today did not really matter. I just want to kill the person who stole Ito’s equipment. I have been the subject of being robbed twice. It is horrible – especially financially. I lost £27,000 over 3 years when an insurance company refused to pay up. People assuming you have a great life, travelling, earning lots of money are so spectacularly wrong. I should be living in a bigger house, have a bigger car but a big proportion of my earnings in the past have gone back to the bank to repay loans. If people are not stealing your equipment, people nowadays have no concern or appreciation of the copyright act and feel it is OK to take what is not theirs and reproduce images on their own websites. We may be in the Rainbow Nation, but many of us now want war on these horrible individuals stealing our equipment.

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2 responses to “Day 16 : USA v Ghana

  1. Hello my friend

    Why am I still in England ? – good reasons actually

    I must say your blog is beginning to resonate with Marinovich’s Bang Bang Club.

    Clearly this event has become more than a love fest.

    I wish you all well – say hi to our mutual friends

    bid hugs and get some sleep

    PR

  2. Hey Matthew,

    I don’t know when you find the time and energy to write this terrific blog but I enjoy it a lot. I’m watching it on TV and not missing a lot of the stuff that isn’t so much fun that you’ve mentioned in your reports. Be safe on those long drives.

    John

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