I can not remember the last decent night sleep that I have had. When I did the Toulon Tournament in France last week, I was attacked morning, noon and night by insects biting my arms, back in the UK I was attacked by a cat and last night it was the, “Attack of the mosquitos.”
However I felt better when I found out that I was not the only mosquito victim when I greeted another English photographer who is staying in the same area and was also a prime target for the annoying things.
When I should have been sleeping at 4am, I was invoicing and writing emails to newspapers chasing non-payments. The idea was to try and achieve a relaxing start to the tournament – with plenty of sleep and rest.
We got to the stadium again very early – quite simply because there is not much to do here! My time was spent cross referencing Ukraine Google Maps with Russian Google Maps and English Google Maps in a bid to find out our next location.
I am trying not to be a stress head on this trip. My calmness was ruined before we set off when one English Photo Agency pulled out leaving us with mega extra costs which resulted in other agencies pulling out too.
But I did get annoyed when I discovered my computer lead and I thought extension lead had both broken. Thanks to Google I discovered that there are no computer shops here and flying in something via FedEx would be expensive.
The world however returned to a better place when we found out that the media centre’s electricity had tripped and indeed there was no power at all.
The stadium media centre in Kharkiv is in a car showroom. UEFA have come in and branded the outside of it just like they have decorated the dull city itself.
We ventured on the local metro. A good start to the day with what I thought was a nice picture of a lady speaking to someone in a bank in the metro system with a poster come directional sign showing local fans of FC Metalist Kharkiv to their stadium.
After my colleague frustratingly got clobbered by a security man for taking pictures in the amazing East European Metro stations, there was plenty to snap once we got out back in the open.
Next time Ill take my smaller more indiscreet camera – my 1950s look a like camera and not my big expensive Nikons.
The main square at Pivdenyi Vokzal, in front of the main train station, was full of classic UEFA signage. I quickly went though inside the station to collect in person my train booking for a week’s time back to Kiev.
I have been to Kiev before. It is the capital city, but I would never have come to Kharkiv if it was not for my football work. The main train station was a classic Eastern European structure. High, grand and painted in bright colours when the rest of the city resembles a black and white photograph with blue sky. With total ease and no document checking I had my train ticket within seconds.
The locals were magnetised to a huge Adidas Tango 12 ball outside the train station.
Whilst the trams in urgent need of an upgrade transported the people along the streets, more UEFA signage decorated this strange city.
Whilst the women dressed as though they had just returned from a 1980’s rummage sale, the men wore t-shirts and an array of attire which made even the non-fashion conscience of us cringe. One chap was sporting a matching white t-shirt and trousers combination whilst sporting the Euro 2012 logo.
I’m sure UEFA would have been proud of him, even if the Western European Fashion Police would have not!
It was quite ironic that I spotted a tram advertising a second-hand fashion shop!
Back to the stadium we went, still uncomfortable wearing a pair of black jeans and a t-shirt with everyone’s suspicious looks eyeing us British Gents as we struggled to read the Ukraine / Russian Metro stop lines.
Finally it was to business as I under took the first job of this trip – Netherlands training. Wish a list of requests and wants it was nice to do something constructive rather than document the goings on before my eyes in a city I am still unsure of.
The FC Metalist Kharkiv stadium is gorgeous. Made even more gorgeous with more UEFA Euro 2012 decoration and signage.
Half my attention was geared to looking over my shoulder at the brightly coloured decor. Perhaps a few hours in the grey and dull city made me appreciate the vibrant design work of the UEFA signage.
Quite simply, the Dutch were magnificent. I am normally bored out of my skull at most training sessions. The Dutch however were nothing short of marvellous. A few of the squad were moaning about the Adidas Tango ball – my Dutch photographer friends saying that it did not roll on the lush green turf to their satisfaction.
With Assistant Trainer Dick Voorn being wrestled by Arjen Robben during the training session I had no trouble in editing over 50 images to send out to the world ahead of my tournament favorites beginning their journey tomorrow evening against Denmark.
After other photographers had sent me images of the Opening Ceremony and the opening game of Poland v Greece, we arranged to meet for some food with some of the Getty photographers. Luckily the pizza parlour was only 116M from our hotel.
Downloading a free app for my iPhone has been invaluable in navigating us around – even if it is in Russian.
However the finale of the night was not the Russia v Czech game, or finding a shop selling insect repellant spray but an incredible cringe worthy film on Polish TV called Pilkarski Poker – or Soccer Poker.
Tomorrow Matchday Three is my first game of Euro 2012.
It is now 16 years since my first ever European Championship game, England v Switzerland when all was going well until I missed Alan Shearers 23rd minute opener.
During that tournament my friend Valeria got her camera smacked by the ball which resulted in her hot shoe being ploughed into her eye brow. It looked like she had a bottle of ketchup thrown over her – blood everywhere.
And lastly a decision by myself to be in the TV blimp over Wembley Stadium to take pictures in went disastrously wrong when strong winds postponed the take off. I instead listened to the final stuck in traffic on the M25!
Just before lights out, we found Euro News on our Ukraine TV – not showing the actual game footage from Euro 2012, but ‘cheating’ and showing Sony Play Station like computer generated goals from the opening games today.
Interesting stuff, no Canon, McDonalds or Adidas adboards on the scam footage, but unfaithfully showed other companies not in the UEFA family.
We go to sleep trying to remain calm about the prospect of photographing in 28 degree thunder storms tomorrow evening.