So here we go.. my first game of the tournament that I don’t want to really do.
Last night was a success. I slept with a hoody on with a hood over my head and my arms inside the top. Then socks over some track suit bottoms pulled up over my waist so no insects could eat me in the night.
After a quick shower I was off. I had lots to do. With photographers chasing their wages, more Google mapping in Russian to be done and to greet my friend Carl driving up from Donetsk I worked like a Ninja from the off.
I was glad to get there early AND with a UEFA car park pass. Nine hours before kick off and the local Police not only shut the roads around the stadium but also the local Metro stop was spectacularly closed too. Luckily I travelled to the Metalist Stadium by car and hang my head in shame at the Dutch photographers sweating like they have jumped into a near by lake following their 2km walk.
The saying Piss Poor Preperation means Piss Poor Performance is very true. Without boasting, because we have been here for two days longer than most, we are up to speed on how this place works, the cultures and the understanding of the locals in communicating.
However no one could predict the closing of the Metro system!
Saturday morning was spent doing my office work and receiving news from home via Skype and Facebook depending on which worked. At the moment I think Viber is the best thing ever – free VIOP on my iPhone but I feel the Ukraine Telecom company have shut the internet ports that normally allow this in order to make people use the telephones.
Photographers tickets were issued three hours before kick off. This time around the system has changed a little. No more big queues for photographers – woo hoo – Lie Ins!
UEFA have made their own priority system. I was number 23. Considering the Danish and Dutch photographers, I was quite chuffed with my ranking.
How 24 hours had changed the vibe and visual surroundings of this area. It was as if someone had flicked off the black and white switch and returned everything back to colour. The Orange Mob of Dutch fans invaded through slow streams of stewards.
I got quickly bored though as my critical eye told me that most of what I was seeing was visual rubbish and uninteresting to document outside the stadium.
Then a Danish girl caught my eye as she was carrying a red horse under her arm.
In having to shoot in various styles for various clients, I took a picture with the girl in a post for a regional newspaper rather than a serious political journal documenting the social change and effect Euro 2012 was having on the local people of Kharkiv.
Making pictures out of nothing is always hard. With some clients wanting images of the local stewards and police I used the UEFA stadium branding as a neat backdrop.
Just as I predicted, the Netherlands were awesome in the first 20 minutes. With me doing Denmark attack I was bored and a few of us shared our fist “why are we here” syndrome just after the 20 minute mark. I was still searching for pictures as Denmark scored. Just like in 1996 at Wembley, I completely screwed up the first goal of my tournament.
No idea what BBC commentator Alan Green and his Danish co-commentator Jan Mobly were saying. I kept telling myself that no one remembered the opening games. It all hung on the final.
With the major wire agencies of Getty, AP, Reuters, EPA and AFP all sending images at lightening speed down LAN cables on pitchside, even if I did get the winning goal there was little chance of it being used. Thus as per normal I had to seek other ways of getting creative images in the hope I would get something published.
The Danes hung on.
Holland / Netherlands / Orange Mob – depending on what you want to call them could not find a way through to get the equaliser and 0-1 it finished.
It wasn’t a case of Denmark winning, but the Netherlands losing with my pictures reflecting just that.
After the dejection had been documented me and Carl raced back to the media centre, only to be joined by 2,000 fans going the same way. In all my UEFA and FIFA competition experience I just know that the fans should not have gone down this route but the did.
By now I was very thirsty. Alarmingly there was no water for the hard working media in the media centre. Thankfully I had some nice juice I had still got in a bag from a local supermarket the day before.
With a return to the same pizza restaurant as we visited yesterday, this time we got stung with a 10% football tax to the bill. We don’t speak Ukrainian / Russian and the waitress could hardly say ham, let alone “spinach on the pizza”, just the two stern words of “FOOTBALL TAX” when we came to pay our bill.
Very tired I headed back to the room for hopefully a nice deep sleep.
Tomorrow the fun and games and real travelling starts. What we have done so far has been a walk in the park.