Today was a cloudy affair. I decided to go the stadium early. I went for some food but I turned my nose up at everything on offer. The Indian media were tucking into it like they had never eaten before… others were doing U-turns like myself! I realised I was not that hungry. The food looked awful.
I put my equipment into a media locker and headed outdoors. I made the short walk to the new shopping centre called the Villaggio Shopping Mall.
All I can say is WOW.
Obviously with an Italian name, it had an Italian theme to it. Outside it was a mess of different architecture. Inside it was like being outside. “Live” clouds on the ceiling, a canal with gondolas running through the middle, a roller coaster running through it, a go-kart track, an amazing array of restaurants and not forgetting the olympic sized ice hockey rink!
It had Million Dollar Alley written all over one section. Security guards hiding behind bullet proof glass protecting diamonds and jewels like I had never seen before.
I had a spot of lunch which reminded me on how much I am wasting eating in my hotel.
I made myself a promise to go out more!
As time went by I encountered more Kuwait fans walking around. I then stumbled upon a ticket sales booth with a long queue.
I had almost forgotten about the match and headed outside.
An Indian security guard tried to prevent me from snapping an Arabic “GIVE WAY” sign. When asked for an explanation he just said..”The Arabs, my bosses… no pictures.”
I left saying England would slaughter India at cricket. He laughed.
Fans at this tournament arrive with literally ten minutes to go. I had to keep checking my watch to ensure that I was not too early. It was getting dark. I got my belongings and headed out with no expectation ahead of me.
I passed once again The Aspire Tower. A 300 meter tower that was going to be a hotel. With an ever-changing lighting show on it, it also has a massive TV in it.
I will venture up it in the near future.
I got a spot behind the goal and entered into the stadium for a third time behind an Arabic photographer the same route as I had taken previously. I was homed in on by another Police security man telling me to leave the stadium and enter through another entrance.
I explained I understood and would take a different route the next time.. but what was the point now I was already in the stadium? He just said “GO” and pointed to the exit. I was up for a right old argument, but a Japanese photographer came up beside me and whispered in my ear that they had already thrown out some photographers in other stadia.
I left, only to enter back through another door with a security guard who would not have cared if I had no accreditation around my neck. I was back where I was with in 50 seconds looking at the same fan proudly holding his scarf.
She was always smiling and was decorated in jewels and diamonds.
At today’s game, if there were 60 photographers, 30 were Asian and about 8 were female. I think I was the only European.
The nice photo marshalls now understand the requirements of the international photographer and we were left free to roam about with them having the knowledge that we would not over step the line. Everyone was relaxed and happy unlike the stressful opening game when everyone was on edge. Everyone knows each others face now and unlike a World Cup, it’s the same people who attend at every game.
The only photographers that everyone seems to be having problems with are the locals who refuse to remove their lens hoods, don’t move to allow you to plug-in electricity supplies to computers and insist on checking their LCD displays on the back of their camera, thus blocking the action for others. This is the main reason why myself and others have sat behind the goal in recent games to avoid conflict on the side! Today I was on the side but thankfully one of the AFC official photographers spoke in what appeared to be a stern Arabic tone and one of the culprits moved. I gave him a big “Shukran” – pronounced SHOCK_RUN which is Thank You in Arabic. I was left in peace!
Todays game appeared to be over as soon as it had started. Two goals by the home nation killed of Kuwait and there was no way back.
At half time I read internet reports on the games back home. All the games were draws. I had not missed much.
One thing that I keep smiling to myself about is regardless of what culture a photographer is from, most seem to have the same language of the eye.
We all see the same.
I snapped away at the Saudi lady dressed in her Islam dress. It was certainly a different kind of company to that I get going to Everton!
Then Koo came and sat next to me. She is from South Korea.
I was happy. I like Koo. She is a BRILLIANT photographer. I wish she worked for me.
She had the same idea as me and spent a large proportion of the second half snapping away at the Saudi lady for her magazine Best Eleven, published in Seoul.
I took lots of pictures of her taking pictures. All the action was up the other end anyway.
At the final whistle, Qatar won 3-0. They progressed to the Quarter Finals.
I left with Japanese photographer Hara. We were like twins in stopping at the same time, crouching down beneath Aspire Tower and then snapping at the same moment. He laughed and said pictures in Doha always look better when locals in Arabian dress are in the frame. Another example of someone from another culture speaking the same language of pictures.
Back in the media centre I sat by Koo again. She showed me the latest copy of her magazine. I assumed the studio feature pictures were done by studio photographer experts with lighting assistants but I then spotted her English byline amongst all the Hangul script. Stunning pictures of Korean players in a dis-used car park. I know she was a good photographer but she went up about 10 levels after I saw her feature work. I wish the English media had the balls to print the kind of work that she had had published.
She then got my computer and went searching for pictures. She found my pictures of Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma FC who I had covered in Abu Dhabi last month. Referring back to her magazine she showed me her pictures of them!
This tit for tat showing off was becoming fun. I played my trump card….
We then talked about Park playing for Manchester United and she came across my picture of Park playing for Man U tackling Lee Chung-Yong of Bolton. I asked if her magazine wanted to buy it. She became interested. I became interested then some Korean was spoken to the guy next to her before he broke the news that they had a deal with Getty Images and it was unlikely!
I left for the hotel editing my pictures on the media bus. I became hungry and for once had the guts to cross the 11 lane Ring Road outside my hotel to the nice restaurants. I had a 2 course meal and Pepsi for 30% of one dish in my hotel. No room service for me again!
The weather looks to have turned so I took my time watching Birmingham v Villa in Arabic whilst sending messages to mates back home and editing my days work. There seems no reason to get up early. I’m certainly not taking tourist-type pictures in the city with grey clouds in the sky when for most of the time the sky is deep blue. I have two weeks left anyway…
As always I miss my friends back home but being so close and working alongside mostly great photographers each and everyday it will be a wrench to say goodbye once again and returning home.
I ate my evening meal thinking about the little brochure that Koo showed me. She was given it by the Saudi lady and it was like a promo-brochure. The Saudi ladies pictures were great too. Another prime example of not to judge someone by the equipment they are using or who they appear to be. Only judge by the work that they produce.
She had documented the Saudi team like I know the England FA Official photographer can only dream of. I miss him too, but Koo is far better looking!