As I woke up, the ocean was to be heard crashing on the rocks outside. Shutting the door last night, all was quiet. Upon opening it this morning a steady stream of joggers passed by. It had been raining, the ground was wet. The sun shone on Cape Town in the distance, for us we had grey skies.
Ahead of getting lots of pictures published, shooting lots of good, interesting action and arriving to a stadium safely and on time, the ultimate wish for most photographers is that they at least remember their waterproofs or even better it stays dry.
After driving for so long, it was a shame that we could not stay in this great location. Not only the lure of seeing the Green Point Stadium, Table Mountain and Arjen Robben Island as we now called it, the simple fact that myself and Ito were on the waiting list for this game meant we had to arrive at the stadium at another crazy time. Yet again, if a photographer arrived at a stadium at 9am for a 3pm kick off, some would be calling for the men in the white coats to take them away, but for World Cups, everyone arrives early in order to collect their tickets
We don’t drink beer like fans. We don’t have time to sightsee like fans. We are there to work.
I meet more photographers that I have not seen in years. All photographers like a good moan and after I had a good moan to them, I became the counsellor and listened to their grumbles.
Topics include ‘proper’ photographers not getting accreditation over unknowns who take full advantage of Canon and Nikon at this World Cup providing free lens hire. The ticketing arrangements at Soccer City where the stock and magazine shooters get tickets behind the goal not wanting to be there themselves and blocking those trying to capture goal mouth action. And lastly fears about the big final a week on Sunday again in Soccer City. The design of the pitch is so that it is raised on three small steps. With the winning team running around with the trophy and photographers chasing them, some fear that they will end up in hospital with sprained ankles!
Despite the moans, we all love what we do and submissively take whatever is thrown at us.
Before we know it, the waiting list is called out. Thankfully there are lots of spaces still on the pitch and on this occasion we get our tickets. The decision of tribune v pitch is made for me when I spot a position on the photographers seating planning chart that is still available. Such decisions change lives, change picture libraries and change what the public see in magazines and newspaper
Unfortunately no time to do the daily Wolves shirt picture – I hope the people at Wolverhampton Wanderers understand, my excuses seem weak but the reality is that there is not the opportunity. The stadium again is ‘sealed’ off for the media and we have to go into town to mix with the fans.
As the team come out onto the pitch, Germany are in all black. I am a purist. It is not a final and Germany are normally in white and black. Argentina therefore shall be the focus of today. Who wants to buy Germany playing in an all black kit!?
I concentrate my efforts on Maradona once more. I still can not believe how small he is.
People always comment on how small Kyle is. She is small and mostly has small dancers around he when you see her in concert, but I can never remember thinking when Maradona weaved his way through the England defence in 1986 on how small he was when watching on TV!
Apart from the obvious portraits, I am always looking out for something different. If only to please myself. It is another FIFA accreditation badge!
For an Englishman this next bit is very hard to write! But Germany were superb.
A picture of Gabriel Heinze looking dejected to sum up Argentina being knocked out of the World Cup is not as nearly as powerful as Messi. We need icons. We need stereotypes. Photographers therefore have to abide by the wishes of picture editors should they want to get paid and provide such images!
With four goals being scored, it is pointless trying to beat Reuters and Getty Images whose photographers are hooked up to LAN lines sending pictures back to editors in offices. I can not compete on speed here, so I have to compete with spotting things that others do not see.
As soon as the final whistle is blown I’m out off my chair hunting around for emotive fans. It is so easy to spot the South Africans who have sportingly come dressed in Argentina shirts, finding true Argentines whose country have been slaughtered by Germany is a bit more difficult.
Then out of the corner of my eye I see a man looking distant. On cue his partner puts her head on his shoulder and as if by magic a fan a few seats behind hold up his flag. It makes a fitting background. I take a few frames and then ‘spoil’ their moment. It is dog eat dog here. I realise that I have a nice image and I do not want others to capture it too. Sometimes shooting fans in stadiums like this resembles a photocall. I shout “Gracias” and the girl perks up and smiles! If anyone else has got this picture I will be most upset!
What I next have to write is very difficult! I praise my German photographers on how well the German team played. In all honesty, they were good. Very good!
Myself and Ito go to a hotel around the corner from the stadium. The others get in the VW and head back to the coast to the amazing apartment that we stayed in the night before. I will be coming back to Cape Town after the World Cup for a few days. It is cheaper to stay and have a couple of days break rather than helping airlines boost profits with crazy prices.
Ito and me walk to the Waterfront in Cape Town. We spent a week here together when we covered the World Cup draw. We know some very nice restaurants and find a table in one. It is Saturday night. The place is heaving. I almost feel guilty for suggesting that this world cup has no vibe. Cape Town is buzzing. This is what I have been missing! Hundreds of people gather around TV screens in bars and restaurants watching Paraguay v Spain.
It is great to sit amongst them as we dine on great food. For nearly three weeks we have been eating rubbish! Although the food is better than what is offered to British people on UK Motorway Service stations, it is plainly obvious when I and others are in bad moods. It is not because of a lack of sleep but because we have eaten crap and terrible food!
I spot Ray Haughton who is over here working for TalkSport in a table next to me. I have yet to bump into my mates who work for TalkSport. I do not know who he is with so remain chatting to Ito. Form spotting Ray, our conversation turns to Dublin and Ireland. Ito is well-travelled but equally likes to hear my stories of going on the Holyhead to Dublin ferry.
As David Villa scores the winning goal after a penalty drama, the place erupts. As soon as the final whistle goes, people return focussed to their meals. Many depart leaving Cape Town in a familiar feel of normality – only the giant FIFA tents in the Waterfront in which fans purchase t-shirts and vuvuzelas indicates that there is a World Cup on. Cricket returns to the TV screens and me and Ito discuss travel more. Taiwan the main topic and also how flights to China are always full. As we leave and head for the hotel.
As we walk back we comment on how envious we are at those who have stayed here for three weeks in this amazing city. However like always we contradict ourselves with sweeping statements and suggest that driving through amazing landscapes to such places like Nelspruit is what the World Cup is really about.
The clock strikes midnight. A week today it will be the World Cup Final.