14 Jan : South Korea v Australia / Bahrain v India

After falling asleep to another episode of Family Guy – DVD’s purchased for my 8 hour stop over in Dubai on the way back – I woke up today only 3 hours before the kick off of South Korea v Australia. Skyped a fellow photographer back home (hi carl) then headed off to the stadium.

I arrived there one hour before. For the first time a little nervous. Nervous as I wondered if I would get a ticket – but fear not there was a whole pile of the little purple cardboard beauties which get us past the security men and onto the pitch.

With German colleagues sending me messages wanting pictures from Manchester City tomorrow, Sam my Wolves photographer telling me on impending exciting trips with the Wolves squad to Coronation Street… I decided to cut ties with the outside world and shut my computer to concentrate on this Group C fixture – South Korea v Australia.

With the Aussie fans singing “Lets Go Aussie, Lets Go…” A chant I associate with Ice Hockey, I exchanged some banter with the convicts from Down Under telling them that they can’t win a cricket match to save their life and that I did not hold up much hope for this game either!

Because I hate Everton and Tim Cahill was upfront for Australia, I was gunning for the Koreans inside – though of course remaining professional and doing my job!

 

© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

 

Now when I photograph Manchester United, I don’t really pay much attention to Park.

When he has the ball he always passes or on occasions shoots and scores, but for most of the time, I am looking at Rooney or Berbatov or Giggs out of the corner of my eye.

 

© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

 

It’s quite strange but cool to follow Park around. He is a great player. Fergie knew what he was doing when he signed him.

Unlike Cahill.. PAH!

Harry Kewell played well though. I am still waiting for him to get injured.

The score was 1-1. On paper this was an epic tie, but in reality it was a tight affair and both teams closed each other down resulting in not the excitement seen in other fixtures in this competition.

On the final whistle I quickly packed up my cameras and lenses and headed for the Al Sadd. Game Two of today was the second game in this group; Bahrain v India.

I will never confess to being a football mastermind. I like listening to Louis van Gaal speak and that’s about it! Most managers talk nonsense in my book.

I met up with a scout from AS Monaco. He actually agreed with my assessment on the games we had seen so far. Perhaps I can be the next manager of Bayern Munich too then!?

He then started talking about the English Premier League. As an outsider his thoughts were eye-opening. “Too many foreigners” he said! He claimed only Joe Hart and Rio Ferdinand were any good in the England team. “Rooney has gone” And as for Frank Lampard.. he proclaimed that he himself would be brilliant if he too played in the middle of the Chelsea team surrounded by amazing Internationals.

He claimed there was no technique in English football. He told me to watch closely at how Bahrain played and how the players play as individuals. Watching football on TV I can never really appreciate individual play. Equally being at a game as a fan it is sometimes hard to simply follow one player and not get sucked up into the game. But I remembered what the scout said and his words were true.

Bahrain will never win the World Cup but 4 or 5 of their players were superb. Unlike some League One players in England they ran into space and passed the ball and could control it.

It was great for individual pictures. So much so I don’t think I will cover Bahrain in this group again. I was planning on covering Australia v Bahrain in the last group games but instead I’ll go for South Korea v India.

I had already put the previous game behind me. This was like being at a music festival where you suddenly discover a new band. The headline act can wait. You know nothing about the band playing before your eyes but you are magnetised by them.

India were 3-1 down at half time. I’m not slaughtering English football off today but the positivity and support from the India fans was immense. In Spain when a player narrowly misses there is a huge deep long “Heeeeeeeeeeee” from the crowd. In England five years ago you used to hear a ripple of applause, nowadays fans are shouting for changes to be made by the management when someone blazes the ball over the bar.

Experiencing different cultures is why I love my job so much. However being in a place where every day I am exposed to different types of support on a now daily basis, sometimes it is all too much to take in.

 

© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

 

The Bahrain had may a poster of their leader – which they were proudly showing off to the Indian fans – all 9,000 of them.

Probably like me they were thinking.. “WHO HE!?” Thanks to Google I found out who he was!

It was the King. Again I can’t quite remember the last time I attended an England International and the fans were holding up images of Queen Elizabeth II.

Like some European fans, the Indians were taunting the opposition fans gesturing “What are you saying?” by cupping their hands to their ears and then gesturing who cares.

The Bahrain fans did not know what to make of it all.

All through the game, what sounded like out of tune trumpets played in unison with a chorus of drums whilst a man sang through a megaphone to provide a stunning soundtrack to the game. Once again I regret not recording just ten seconds of the sound on my iPhone. Photography lets you down sometimes!

The Indians did not have songs. The Indians did not have scarfs to wave around, but boy did they have voices.

I have never been to India.

The only thing I really know about the country is their cricket team and I know a good Lamb Biryani.

The Indian supporters appreciated that the team will never be world beaters – yet… there were a few World Cup 2026 t-shirts knocking around though …. they want the World Cup and from what I hear, FIFA quite fancy it being in India too. Watch this space – be it for 15 yrs!

Back to the current football…. every time India pushed forward the screams and passion from the fans was incredible. In all my life of watching football as a fan and with my job I don’t think I have ever heard so much instant passion.

Bahrain were walking it, then a rash challenge reduced them to 10 men. Moments later a blatant dive by their striker in the penalty box resulted in a second yellow and Bahrain were down to 9 men.

After yesterday, the referee was playing a blinder. He was from Malaysia.

With Bahrain down to nine men, the game suddenly seemed fairer! Perhaps FIFA should introduce handicap systems.

India gave it a good go. I’m sure the football connoisseurs would not be impressed but you could not help being sucked into the positive spirit that the Indians offered. Bahrain got a 5th and it was 5-2.

 

© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

 

The Indian players were gutted. They next face the might of South Korea. I will have to see what the odds are for double figures – on paper South Korea will slaughter them.

Normally teams who finish the bottom of a league deserve to be there. What I like about tournaments is that every game is like a cup final. Teams never approach the game with the attitude that if they only draw one game they are happy to get a point as there is always next week. Most tournament games are never dull.

India apparently have lots of injuries and their star player should make a comeback for the South Korea game. If I sound as though I have got caught up with the Indian team, then it is true!

I doubt any of the players are good enough for non-League in England but who cares! They are certainly not a circus act. I would have loved to have been at the game where they qualified for this tournament.

The day ended with frustration. My computer charging lead has decided to die. A very helpful Qatar lady told me where to get a new one from in one of the three massive Shopping Malls in Doha. Apparently I need to go to the one simply called “The Mall”.

So tomorrow before anything else, I need to go to The Mall.

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