Daily Archives: January 11, 2011

11 Jan – Iraq v Iran

Some people have bad Mondays. Today I had a bad Tuesday. After the euphoria of yesterday I woke up but from the off and faced up to the fact that I would be bugged all day long.

First was getting my emails. I got lots of emails today, but none worth reading – just junk and junk and junk. It seems one of my email addresses that never got spam mail has just made up for it. I decided to lie by the pool for an hour to two. However it was not that warm, a cold breeze making it somewhat uncomfortable. Listening to the iPod on my iPhone, The Delays were rudely interrupted by a call from a Manchester number.

Was it an ad agency offering £15,000 for one of my pictures? Was it a magazine or newspaper wanting a commission? I did not recognise the number. They hung up then immediately called again – and again – and again and again. I wondered if I had annoyed someone and that they wanted words so badly. Sub-consciously I could not relax and went back to my room.

Oh bloody great!! I inputted the number that had been calling and found pages on Google about this number calling people and nuisance calls. I am so glad that I did not answer, apart from being in Qatar and having a huge supplement charge to my bill, I was not in the mood for cold callers.

I went to wait for the media bus. Today was the first day that they changed the bus schedule, it is now every half hour. Except the ONLY bus of the day that did not turn up was the 15.10 that I was waiting for. On time the 15.40 turned up however. On a positive note I got a local to explain the Arabic alphabet to me.

I got to the media centre and found out that the restaurant closed at 16.00. It was 16.10. I felt like Michael Douglas in ‘Falling Down’.




I decided to go to the stadium. Today I completed the Asian Cup 2011 set. Today was my 5th stadium out of the 5 stadia hosting the tournament. It was EXACTLY the same as the Al Gharafa but with black and red seats.

The sunset and desert landscape made up for my bad day so far. The sun was extraordinarily big in the sky. Upon arriving a Korean photographer came up to me and said had I seen The Sun.. I thought perhaps that I had got a double page spread on the Australia game – alas not, he was commenting on the mega sunset that I had just seen. It seems us photographers are all alike despite cultural differences. We all see and feel the same things.



When I began planning this trip one game that stood out was Iraq v Iran.


I first did this fixture in October 2000. It was Iran v Iraq though with Iran winning 1-0. I wrongly assumed that this fixture would be a great game for pictures like the one I did in Saida – which is the closest stadium to the sea in the world. No great facts to churn out about this one!



Iranian women are still banned from attending football matches in their own country, the ban on women at matches came after the Islamic revolution of 1979. Like most Middle East countries women attend in abundance and as I have said before add a whole lot more to the atmosphere.





Iraq v Iran – all the political history between the two sides adds lots of spice to the Western journalist and the enthusiastic photographer but as always you can only shoot what is in front of you. I began the game sitting on the side but was surrounded by complete idiots. Many of them had borrowed equipment from sponsor Nikon. They were balancing $8,000 lenses against the advertising boards, I was just waiting for gravity to do its thing and snap one in half. Another idiot asked if I was sitting next to him as he was sitting next to me. I did not quite understand.

A local chap was equally bemused and the joys of the global language prevailed as he indicated the photographer was a bit loopy. Another decided to switch off the electricity supply providing power to photographers using laptops – it all got too much and I moved behind the goal instead.

More photographers were blocking the more professional amongst us. In the past I would have kicked off big time but I left my colleagues to argue in Arabic.

The game was unlike a European fixture. The amount of headers was incredible, and so was the way the players went for the ball. In England about 14 players would have been sent off. The referee played a great game. It was great for the eye but just did not make good pictures. All the great shots were blocked – but yet again before one of us goes into a deep depression someone else starts cursing and swearing and its great to understand sometimes that it is just not me that is having a bad day. Again a great example of us photographers seemingly having the same blood running through our veins.



Yet again the fans made up for bad action shots, be it waiting patiently for some great characters to position themselves so that flags etc were placed creating nice compositions. Pictures like this don’t just happen. You have to wait and stalk your prey.


I just put today behind me and I’ll start again tomorrow! At the end of the game a group of us got the media bus back to the media centre. Alas they had pasta with mushrooms and I hate mushrooms! The Lamb Biryani had run out thanks to the local Indians munching it all.

I just opted for some very dry rice.




One photographer summed the day up before I could even begin to counsel myself with him – he said that we could have spent a thousand pounds traveling from Europe to the Middle East for one World Cup Qualifier and this be it – a terrible game for pictures. At least we can put it behind us and start again tomorrow.

Ok I wont have any cool Iraq v Iran pictures to sell but in three days time I will have a second chance to shoot the two teams when they play their next games – but not against each other.

Perhaps Iraq v Iran does not mean as much as it did in the year 2000 and then it was Iran v Iraq – there is a difference!

Perhaps time has moved on. Thats what I like about tournaments and doing games every day at such a pace. Yesterday was great, today was bad. Regardless – I’ll just start again tomorrow!