It made a nice change to wake up in a different city – this time Kiev. Not that I am bored of Kharkiv or Donetsk, but although absolutely physically knackered it was mentally refreshing.
Sitting on trains, sitting in cars and sitting in media centers for endless hours takes its toll. Everyone is complaining that they are getting fat. Me and Adam decided to walk around Kiev for a few hours instead of sitting around watching Ukraine TV.
There were Swedes everywhere. Thousands of them. Had England got the right date?
What was planned as a liquid break from all of our walking and exploring, turned into a full on lunch.
I then achieved a Euro 2012 ambition.
Chicken Kiev in Kiev!
It was not like the ones you get in Marks and Spencer or Morrisons … to be honest I don’t eat much Chicken Kiev so I do not claim to be an expert but when I hear of my cricket photographer buddies tell me stories about Indian food in India being completely different to the Indians in the UK – this was definitely different to what ‘we get back home’
The spinach side dish was simply divine!
Kiev : Another city where there is an excellent Metro system, stopping right outside the stadium.. but spectacularly closed on a match day.
Roads 1km – 2km from the stadium were closed once more. This meant a very brief experience on a public bus then a walk literally through the streets of Kiev, walking in the middle of the road with no vehicles to run us over.
Again, Swedes everywhere, not many English. Though I found a few with nicely painted faces.
99% of the Sweden fans in yellow replica shirts. Many of them obviously on company trips as groups of 40+ men with logos stitched onto the shirts in the arm of the sleeves.
Now I have been covering England games since about 1996. I am an Englishman living 15 miles from Wales who is gutted not to have any Scottish blood in him. I am not fond of the Irish, feel more Italian in my ways and sometimes think I am a Japanese man in a Westerners body. Apart from Roy Hodgson being the England manager who used to be head coach at WBA who AMA are the photographers for and Joe Hart who I saw grow up at Shrewsbury Town, I don’t actually have much affiliation for the England team. I love my job, but get more excited when I photograph the Japan national team.
Cue play spot the Shrewsbury Town flag…
However I do have a huge connection with an England fan who carries around a Shrek teddy bear like character and dresses it in a Wayne Rooney football kit. I have bumped into this guy quite literally all over the world – and there he was a again on the front row with his Shrek dressed in the new England away kit.
I have no idea where he is from, which team he supports only that he is about 40ish and carries a teddy bear around with him. We always shake hands like the first time we met at Euro 04 in Portugal.
Outside I met the Royal Family – which was nice. The Queen failed to give me an OBE for my services to football photography. She probably knows I’m not a keen fan of England. I had a great random chat with an England fan about Alan Partridge (I must remember to Sky Plus the new Partridge series starting soon).
Karma got me back today. I hate the situation where other photographers copy my pictures. However, I copied one shooting the Royal Family. I suffered for my violation of my self-imposed law.
In the stadium, I spotted Noel Gallagher.
Photographers often watch the direction of other photographers lenses and before I knew it, a machine gunning of shutters were being clicked and everyone had the picture.
Mass internal panic!! : My zip on my trusted Think Tank bag got stuck (it is regulation size for aircraft so shuts up airport check-in staff who I can not tolerate and anyway, what could I transport my cameras and lenses in around Ukraine if that broke!) – I breathed a sigh of relief when I could actually open it.
Panic number two : Whilst jogging around the pitch to a seat as the game was about to start, gravity got the better of my computer. Although it is all backed up, my life is on there – Accounting, pictures, emails, everything I need – for the urgency of syndicating pictures, it simply HAD to work.. For about 3 minutes it would not start. I thought I had broken the screen.
Suddenly it flickered in to life.
I don’t jump and celebrate when England score, but I felt a victory had been won when I managed to get back online and send my pictures to my clients around the world.
England then DID score. In this game disappointments far outweigh the highlights. I was blocked for Andy Carrol’s opener, he slid on his knees away from me, but suddenly my world was a better place again when I got some cracking pictures of him celebrating with Steven Gerrard.
Sweden scored, then they scored again. The fans in the stadium were not moaning. They were supporting and had faith. I write this as I believe that there was lots of negativity about England back home. Not here in Ukraine.
With England 2-1 down, Knee – San I said in my best Japanese to my Japanese colleague sitting next to me – (that’s three-two with those not familiar with the Nippon language) – I just knew England would just win – just like I did covering WBA when Roy was in charge there.
Walcott scored to make it 2-2, again his goal blocked but I got one frame of him celebrating.
I then took this picture and within seconds my Facebook page went into over drive as apparently I was on TV with people I know from all over the world saying that they had seen me.
Then the winner.
I was happy with my haul. I am often very self-critical, but on this occasion gave myself an A+. Visually is was a great goal and it made a great picture, difficult to get, well framed and almost perfect. My enthusiasm dwindled though when I returned to the media center and saw some of the other offerings. Mine was not quite as good as I had initially thought. Someone else always gets a better frame.
The England fans went crazy though.
I have never said such a ridiculous piece of nonsense in my life.. but I feel England can win this tournament.
We got a taxi in the rain back to the hotel. It was lashing it down, but not as bad as the match in Donetsk.
Woo hoo – I got an email from a mate in Fleet Street – I had got the back of the Daily Express. This was a ‘mid-edition’ run. Not the first edition. An edition change. Not the best picture that I have ever taken. More luck I think as most photographers lenses were blocked.
Fingers crossed that the last editions would use my Danny Welbeck goal.
A two-hour sleep ended with my alarm going off. Walking like a zombie I made it to the Kiev Main Railway Station. I could not go to sleep. I began playing with my iPhone, taking pictures and turning them into high contrast black and white images with nice thick borders.
Next thing I know, the England fan sitting opposite me in the train was shaking my body! We had arrived in Kharkiv.
The station plastered with even more UEFA Euro 2012 signage – or so it seemed, I passed the local news stand. I don’t think I got any publications in the local press!
All I needed to do now was stay awake all day, do Portugal training and then sleep.
Apologies for the mistakes and bad grammer – Photographers writing blogs – Journalists taking pictures – ex players reporting and reporters knowing they could coach…