27 06 2012 – Euro 2012 – Portugal v Spain

Oh the joys of what I do.

People back home assuming being at Portugal v Spain in the Donbass Arena in sunny Donetsk is a dream gig. …If I was on a sightseeing trip and took in a football match then perhaps.

After a great day previously exploring Kiev and going around some old football stadiums and stumbling across an American HipHop band – once again I got no sleep. I guess I am starting to sound like a stuck record but being awake at 4am with the sun shining through the curtains is getting too much of a joke now.

Can the hotels of Ukraine invest in decent curtains.

Other photographers complain of itching. Bed mites they claim. Thankfully I am not itching!

I have a 6am departure from my hotel to the airport for my last visit to Donetsk. No train or driving today.

Karma comes back to haunt you sometimes. At the stadium myself and a Japanese guy comment on how we are not going to say good riddance to the Donbass, but celebrate it. Anything else will result in a Champions League draw of Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester Untied!

I have a great discussion over my second Spaghetti Carbonara of the day over how we answer the question “What was it like in Ukraine then…?” from our interested friends back home. We are trying to think up a stock answer to answer. We can’t find one!

What is crazy today is the internet. It is full of a hoax picture proclaiming that today is the day in the film Back to the Future Marty McFly went to – 27 June 2012 it was most certainly not! One of my geeky friends tell me it is the date in the film, chosen by Doc, is October 21 2015.

Why today!

And indeed why today! Sometimes a day turns out to be magnificent. Sometimes a day turns out to be awful. Remaining positive, today is only the semi final. If I were put on the spot to recall all the semi finals that I have been to I would find it hard.

Finals are far easier to remember. We hope for a memorable final on Sunday.

Today is memorable for the wrong reasons but we all laugh and try not to get stressed.

Sometimes you want a football match to carry on forever because it is superb.

Sometimes you want a football match to carry on forever because it is so crap to photograph you need it to so that you simply have more time to appease the demand of a client by getting a certain number of images.

It does not help when you are staying in a flea pit of a hotel costing over £1,000 a week and you need pictures to pay for it.

© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

There are no tackles. Shadow football makes boring pictures.

The game is tight. Coaching tactics result in players squeezing together and blocking our view on capturing nice clean images.

For all Ronaldo is fantastic to photograph – I so want him back at Manchester Untied.  David Silva of Spain reminds us on how boring the Premier League is to take pictures of.

Great for TV but rubbish, utter rubbish pictures.

No art director with a big budget is going to put their hand in their pocket and offer some great amount for todays offerings.

Add to the mix that today my timing is out. I am not as sharp as normal, yet today is the day I have to provide more pictures to more clients than ever.

After twenty minutes a chap two down from me swears in Italian and moves down to shoot on the side of the pitch. He is fed up of being blocked.

For the first time we all get annoyed but still laugh and smile. “We” being the guys I work alongside with a regular basis at Champions League football, World Cups and B Team Internationals in small stadiums in the pouring rain.

Today the pressure seems to be on the Italians. Perhaps they are nervous about tomorrow’s semi final in Poland. There are only six English photographers in the stadium.

Sitting next to Ukraine photographers borrowing $20,000 worth of camera gear from Canon annoy me as they appear to be just happy snapping. Unable to work their new cameras, they constantly get poked then prodded and nearly punched by Italians.

All WE want to do is capture images of Iker Casillas of Spain. The locals however block images of him pointing and shouting whilst trying to arrange the wall for a free kick.

I guess they don’t even know who Casillas is. They don’t bother for a goalkeeper stock picture. Casillas hardly does anything at the best of times. Getting him pointing is a prize picture to have.

It’s happened before, it will happen again but its frustrating when you are under pressure to perform and perform well.

Constantly checking images on the back of cameras an Italian screams in crazy English.. “Italia 90 we had FILM – these assholes could not shoot transparency – they had no job – now they stop my job.”

He was of course referring to the modern day photographer who does not know how to expose his picture manually, who is totally unconfident with his work and needs to almost constantly check pictures on the back of their camera.

This simply winds up those trying to work as they block the view of the field. With LCD advertising the angle is not as oblique as in previous years. Trying to shoot the goalmouth with the Additional Assistant Referee is hard enough at the best of times. Photographers messing up other photographers pictures is a no no. Those not paying attention is an evil.

The semi final of a European Championship match is not the time to be trying out a new camera when people who have travelled far and wide need to work.

Fortunately nothing happens in the goalmouth except Ronaldo missing a chance to score.

© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

It is almost a relief when at full-time I know I have another 30 minutes of extra time. There are no tackles, rubbish boring football making rubbish boring pictures. Apart from Nani and Ronaldo I am left with virtually nothing.

There are literally a handful of Portugal fans in the Donbass Arena. The small section of Spanish fans are vocal swearing at UEFA President Michel Platini, mocking Ronaldo and celebrating their World Cup victory still.

The Ukraine ‘audience’ boos at them when they refuse to take part in the Mexican Wave.

Everything seems to be against us today. The home team Portugal in their away kit of white and we have to wait until the second half to shoot Ronaldo as for the first time in the competition the teams swap ends before kick off.

Thankfully the coin toss results in the penalty kicks being at our end. Just before an Italian relieves himself in one of the water bottles provided by UEFA.

Can this day get any worse!?

We all have high standards and thankfully we are all slaughtering what is happening in front of us as none of it is providing anything decent.

I have eight pictures from 120 minutes of football. “That was absolutely rubbish..” proclaims one of my countrymen. I want to hug him for his reassurance. I am glad it is not just me struggling.

The last Portugal game I did, I could not do anything wrong. My pictures were ace! This was a stark contrast.

Spain win. They are through to the final.

Non-action images of Portugal players appearing to be dejected but not looking as half as bothered as the England team make up my numbers for the day. I have nothing of Spain to show the world.

The stock pictures I have are actually the best I have done this tournament, only I seem to have captured the best players with their eyes shut!

They seem to be asleep like me!

I just want to sleep this one-off and start a new day with even more positivity.

I am especially grateful to one of my colleagues for kindly providing me with his hotel bed as he does not have time to sleep in it after the game due to an early flight. It’s pointless for him to sleep for an hour.

After getting thrown out of the hotel at midday, a walk around the station and a taxi to the airport, at least I sample more life in the Ukraine.

The new day brings a gathering of photographers, UEFA people and TV crews to the airport as well as a handful of Spain fans. The departure time is 17.10. The airport information display screens say 20.40. We are not amused.

The three week old terminal building has no airline offices. We walk to the old terminal. The lady representing the airline does not understand the concept of time. Sometimes it seems that the airlines take off when they want to.

I repay one of my colleagues and save his company £130 in excess baggage fees. For be its a little payback for staying on a floor in a hotel some weeks ago now. I check his bag in for him as I only have hand luggage. I still have my hotel in Kiev. This is a day trip for me.

No security questions I just get a bag tag and a departure ticket thrust in my hand. Saying that, I prefer these check-in staff to those smiley ones who pull you up for carrying on 19kg of hand luggage!

I am then a subject for a search. They whisk me into the back of the airport. I feel like I am in a Customs TV documentary. My friend has nothing suspicious in his case. I make out his Pringles are mine and offer them to the staff. They refuse the kind gesture! I just feel they want excuses to use their new X-Ray equipment and in their own language give me a mini behind the scenes tour of the airport. No secrecy or anti-terrorism measures here.

The flight to Kiev eventually leaves at 1900h. I sleep like a log on the aeroplane.

All I had to do today was take a one hour flight. Where has all the time gone? What have I achieved today – the answer nothing!

I think I prefer 9 hour drives rather than days like this.

I have two days to rest before the big final.

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