After a great sleep, stinking hot shower it was time to go to work again. This time Kharkiv. Coming in from the North, I felt anguish after telling my friends and proclaiming Kharkiv was a dump.
My previous experience of this host city must have been in the poorer part as the North and West heading towards the 25 mile border of Russia was filled with marble covered buildings, expensive boutiques, impressive statues and more affluent looking people.
It may as well have been another city.
Today was another hot day. At 4.55pm it was 36c.
Again the Police had sterilized the area. Fans were kept even more away from the road surrounding the stadium, so when I went outside 90 minutes before kick off to try to document which on paper was the tie of the group stages – the place was empty and desolate.
Thankfully my colleagues gave up snapping too, so I know it was not just me.
Again lots of plastic fans in attendance once I had got into the stadium. Corporate fans, although enjoying the game, they were also ‘working’ and on show to their bosses and were more like theatre goers.
The only focus of attention was the Dutch WAGS and in particular Sylvie van der Vaart, a Dutch television personality and model, and wife of footballer Rafael van der Vaart.
The Netherlands offered nothing.
This was good football to photograph.
On the giant screens behind each goal showing the world feed, it did not look like a classic but to the hungry football photographer it ticked all the boxes.
At the end of the game some of the Germans, although thankful of their 1-2 victory thought it was a poor game to take pictures of.
My English colleagues immediately launched into how bad the English Premier League is to photograph and after I got accused again of turning it on when I go abroad sometimes by one of my German colleagues, they listened with interest on our philosophies.
With three or four of us backing each other up, we got the message across that the tactics in the Premier League result in many potentially great images being blocked as the teams squeeze tightly together. No one tackles and when they do they get a yellow card.
After that though another English colleague returned to the media center looking depressed and dejected. He was only sitting 20 yards away from me but proclaimed that he had a shocker and agreed with the Germans that it was a bad game to photograph!
But for me, with the infamous Tango ball, this game produced some great action pictures. Perhaps in a few days time I will tone down my excitement but after the dismal rubbish I have been producing over this first week, today was a milestone.
I love the Tango ball – I can not stand the Nike ones!
Whilst waiting for some of the others to pack up, my enthusiasm dwindled as I looked at what some of the guys were producing in Poland. The cities and streets seemed more colourful, more football orientated and their material was far stronger than ours here in the Ukraine.
We raced back to the 24 hr restaurant that we had discovered 24 hours earlier to discover that they were only serving drinks.
Embarrassing for us as we had got some colleagues to join us, my only positive thought was that it was good for my waist line as again I had hardly eaten anything all day.
We could not argue with the Ukrainians and they could not argue with us as neither knew each others language. Hand signs by us indicating food for the mouth were met by shrugs of shoulders and drinks menus being forced into our hands.
Sheepishly we said our goodbyes and returned to our place of residence.
At the moment, the grass is still greener on the other side in Poland.