It’s the weekend. I’m covering four football matches in two days. So pleasing to the soul. Although I had a simply wonderful time last week with rock group Simple Minds on Friday and Saturday and then on Sunday when I had the pleasure of being at the Elton John concert in my home town stadium at Shrewsbury Town FC. The early hours of the morning was even better with my friends and STFC workers having our own impromptu after show party resulting in me going home at 9.15 in the morning , I am in the USA to cover the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2011.
Many question what this tournament is. I question why I am doing it!
It’s no Asian Cup or indeed a UEFA European Championships but its the North American equivalent involving the likes of Canada, USA, Mexico, Honduras etc. Sadly Canada have been knocked out of the early stages in a tournament where it is harder to get knocked out than stay in the competition!
Yesterday I spent a great day with one of my best friends from Shrewsbury, Jenny, who has got a job working for New York Red Bulls coaching American youngsters. I am so proud of her. She has an UEFA coaching licence and although we didn’t do any of the touristy things in the Big Apple we had fun including sheltering from an amazingly violent thunder and lightning storm which saw hail the size of marbles fall onto 5th Street.
The roads were totally flooded. We both said how we thought water was being sprayed from a fire hose on a movie set. We spent nearly all day just walking around and relaxing in New York City catching up and passing time.
In the evening we met up with some of her follow coaches with me staying up till gone past midnight chatting to my new friend Nick discussing the merits of driving from Alaska to the Southern tip of Argentina. A great day.
Today was a good day too.
I met up with some of the Mexican photographers who I traveled around South Africa with last year. The day was ruined however by as normal people giving out wrong information and terrible security and stewards. Myself and another American photographer spend literally three hours trying to locate the place where the media collected their passes to enable them to enter into the stadium.
Swiss people do logistics. They do it well. No they do it amazingly well. The USA don’t.
As all I could smell was steaks being BBQ’d, as everyone was having a tailgate party in the stadium car park, my heart yearned for FIFA or UEFA to be in control of this event.
Quite simply there were no signs and every unhelpful person we encountered, just kept directing us back to the collection point used for NFL games at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Frustrating was not the word for it!
Eventually we found the accreditation centre. I was greeted by another American girl with the whitest teeth I have ever seen. A girl on the New York subway held the title yesterday but she was put into a rightful second place after this encounter.
The first match was the first quarter-final. Costa Rica v Honduras.
A year ago today I covered Honduras v Chile in the World Cup. The Honduras team contained mostly the same players and unlike other nations wore the same kit.
Tied 1-1 at full time, Costa Rica should have won after missing a second half penalty… not that I would have got the picture of the winning goal as myself and one of my Mexican friends encountered a security guard wanting to throw us our of the stadium for standing by the goal net. Totally perplexed by his attitude and inability to simply explain why we could not take a picture of a penalty kick like we do in every other country in the world, we were glad that the Honduras goalkeeper saved what would have been the winning kick.
With no winner after extra time, it was a penalty shootout prior to which I came face to face with a photographer who could have had an argument with himself in a phone box. After my camera bag fell over, it somehow annoyed him which resulted in lots of F words coming from his mouth and the end of the incident him saying “Go back to England where you belong….” I was innocent with another Mexican coming up to me after the Honduras victory reassuring me that I had met a total idiot and suggested that we watch him in the second game as he had no clue as how to shoot soccer.
I don’t know who to shoot baseball. However Mexico, who had racked up a near record goal tally in the group stages were the team to cover. We questioned his positioning and laziness of not moving up the other end as Mexico came back from a first half 0-1 scoreline to win 2-1 in a very easy fashion.
This was of course the second Quarter Final – Mexico v Guatemala.
After my trip to Qatar where my one of my favorite photographers ever Koo who told me about Manchester United’s Park being an utter hero amongst her South Korean countrymen, nothing could prepare me for the affection held by the Mexican girls for Manchester United striker Chicharito – Javier Hernandez.
The amount of shirt sales of Man U shirts in Mexico City must be staggering as everyone wore Chicharito shirts complemented by a mass of banners asking the youngster for marriage by the Chica Bonitas.
They went crazy when he scored the winning goal.
Prior to the game whilst playing hunt the accreditation centre, the American snapper explained how NFL fans of the Giants have to pay a $15,000 bond to get the right to apply to buy a seat to watch a game of American Football. His stories of how he has to pay $40 car park fees when covering Baseball and how many photographers with real jobs were gaining entry into stadiums and giving away terrible pictures for free, echoed stories of our once proud industry back in Europe.
His last words of advice before the first game was to just stay behind for two to three hours as the traffic was chaotic. It was the second best bit of advice I had been given today as nothing could prepare me for the mass of cars on the parking lots with fans having their second tailgate party of the day under the New Jersey night-time sky.
A very helpful lady took me up to the back row of the stadium where I passed my time taking pictures of the new stadium in NJ. From a fans point of view the theatre of it all was amazing. Pitchside however, I still prefer the old Giants Stadium. I was stunned to learn the new stadium was the world’s most expensive stadium costing a staggering $1.6 billion! I won’t moan about the price of Wembley Stadium ever again.
After editing a few pictures, I met up with the girl with the white teeth again who told me to look out for bottles of empty beer behind the wheels of my car. This was indeed the top advice given to me during the day as true to her word, behind and in front of three of my four wheels of the Dodge hire car I’m driving were empty beer bottles. It was the last place I would have wanted flat tyres!
A mass of Honduras fans were being ferried around the car parking lot trying to locate their cars. I parked the Dodge under F10. Once I had located lot F, it was plain sailing! Passing the biggest satellite dishes that I have ever seen I took a back road back to my hotel via the Getty Oil garage to get some more mineral water. Already fed up with sugary liquids, I was so thirsty in the humid climate. It was still 75F.
As I walked back to my motel room, I was greeted by the friendly Indian cleaner who I now see everyday. He enthused about how he had not slept as he had watched the Cricket World Cup Final four times during the day after a friend had posted him a DVD from India.
He asked me to name my all time top England cricket team. I don’t know much about cricket so just rattled off names like Michael Atherton, Darren Gough and Geoffrey Boycott! He smiled and said it was a good team. I had no idea really!
Being polite I returned the question in asking him his best Indian team. He simply rattled off the India team that won the world cup… “Sachin Tendulkar, Piyush Chawla, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel…” I nodded…
At which point an angry American lady – ‘heavy-set’ I think is the politically correct and appropriate phrase to describe her – asked me …”Do you speak Indian..?”
“…Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Sreesanth” on went the Motel cleaner to which she screamed..”Oh you do speak Indian.. I don’t care what he is saying, you obviously understand but can you tell this asshole that I only have three towels and I want four….”
I decided it was time to leave and walked off waving to the nice Indianman goodnight.