22 Jan : Australia v Iraq & South Korea v Iran

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Upon leaving the hotel just before midday I realised I was one minute late for the media shuttle bus departing from the hotel to the media centre.

The Qatari people are very relaxed – not too similar to Mediterraneans where nothing is a problem, who cares if you are early; question why you are standing up when you could be sitting down.

However miss something and they become irate and start preaching about being on time!

I waited patiently until 20 to the hour for the next one, be it asked about four times if I wanted to sit down inside.

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Like always it took me and others to the Main Media Centre.

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Every stadium has a media centre so the main one is simply called the Main Media Centre. I got a lunch voucher and went to the restaurant where the nice Filipino girls dished out the food for the hungry media, not too similar to the homeless and hungry at a soup kitchen. Today I had rice, chicken and lots of vine leaves.

 

I then got another bus to the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, otherwise known as the Al Sadd Stadium – the home of the Manchester United of Qatari football, Al Sadd.

I got a ticket ok and headed pitchside and was greeted by some Australians who did not understand my banter about them being terrible at cricket – I think that they were Aussies living in Doha and had missed the face that they had lost The Ashes.

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Yesterday I read a book about Middle Eastern Culture and how Western men are not supposed to approach the women. OK fine, I respect and understand, but the Iraqi ladies at today’s game were very cheerful and communicative. I just took pictures and forgot about the author preaching on what to do and not what to do.

 

The game kind of passed me by. Not that I was not concentrating but just nothing happened to warrant snapping away much.

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At the end of 90 minutes it was 0-0. I had a decision to make – stay at the Al Sadd and cover extra time and possibly penalties or head over to the other game and cover South Korea v Iran from the start.

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It was a no brainer. I packed up my belongings and left the stadium and waited by the media bus stop outside.

 

On entering the bus the other photographers were trying to tell the Indian bus driver drive fast to the Qatar Sports Club Stadium. We had a game to do! I walked past him on my way to an empty seat and said hello Michael Schumacher, drive fast please. He understood and smiled.

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Yet another Narcoleptic Express Bus.

 

Everyone was asleep in seconds.

I awoke assuming we had arrived, but in fact we were stuck in Doha traffic.

Getting from one side of the city to another can take 15 minutes or 3 hours.

There is no way of knowing.

Our Indian driver got us there in good time and after another security check I chose my position for the second encounter of the day. We then heard news that Australia had won 1-0.

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I opted to sit on the side of the pitch and not behind the goal. I chose my position and got one of the purple match tickets that we have to show security men to gain entry pitchside.

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Myself and Hara decided that we had two minutes spare so went to the little food area where the media can relax and eat something.

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It was not like a large restaurant at the Main Media Centre, but just snacks and drinks. We did find though some very colourful bread cake. For me the most annoying this was that all the ‘nice’ stuff had raisins in them. I hate raisins.

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No stock pictures today, just record what happens. Trouble was, just like the first game it was very 0-0 and I did not have much to show after 90 minutes. Today was one of those days where I was so lucky not to have a client demanding a dozen action pictures. I think I only had about three!

 

I sat next to a charming AFP photographer from Singapore during the first half of extra time and he was explaining how his work was being edited by someone elsewhere in the world as he was making use of the provided Eithernet leads and had connected one of his Nikon’s to one of them.

Suddenly GOAL!

I never saw a thing. My view was completely blocked. The celebration was terrible for me too. Seconds later the whistle was blown for half time of extra time. I ran to do Korea attack in the second half.

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On my way down I spotted some Iranian women crying because they were 1-0 down and looking like that they were going to be knocked out.

 

This was serious photojournalism!

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The kind of picture that wins the World Press Awards, the only difference being that there was no dead body in front of the crying women, instead Park whose Manchester United were defeating Birmingham 5-0 running the show for his home nation.

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During the second half I sat next to Yohei…. be it 15 yards away. Again Park was brilliant.

 

As was Lee Chung-Young who applies his trade at Bolton Wanderers.

The final whistle was blown and as the rest of the photographers packed up their equipment, I ran to the Iranian fans trying to find some more dejected women whilst Koo snapped at her countrymen celebrating reaching the semi-finals.

In Iran, authorities have forbidden women from viewing football matches in public screening rooms.

Women who are already forbidden from watching the games in stadiums, and bearing this in mind I tried to get some juicy world news type of pictures.

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I left Koo to wire and headed back to the Media Bus Park with some Japanese photographers.

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It was a long trip back.

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Firstly a mass of traffic. It was already  past 11pm.

Then suddenly, there was no traffic on the roads! However the bus escort insisted in keeping to the timetable and not leaving each drop off point before the designated time.

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Eventually I got to the hotel. Nodded to the evening shift of reception girls and headed for the lift. As clubbers congregated in the reception area, my hotel houses the only disco in the city apparently, I went to my room and promptly ordered room service – I was so hungry.

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I have to get up early tomorrow morning. An early night for once, still 2am local time though. The next two days will hopefully see me finish all my editing and gathering groups of pictures together for prospective clients.

 

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