I am thinking of splitting myself into thirds. One to sleep. One to do office work and planning and the other to go out shooting. When I was about 8, a year was a long long time. Now a year seems to last like a month once did.
I am awake at 6am and commence doing research for my fifth FIFA World Cup next year in Brazil. I spend the morning chatting football to a Wrexham fan installing new furniture at my house, then its back to my desk doing accounts, sorting out accreditation – let alone trying to nail seemingly easy German tax return forms. The problem is the UK tax office who do not know what department of their own office is responsible for stamping a form so I can get my money being held by the German tax office.
Soon it is home time for most office workers. Some friends come around, Man U v Villa is on. By the start of the second half I am on the road en route to the Channel Tunnel.
A one hour power nap is rewarded with a 13 hour drive from Calais to Bavaria, under Luxemburg and into Germany.
It’s now 7am and the sun is coming up in Eastern France. I decide to have some more sleep. I am way ahead of schedule and I have yet to drive on the Autobahn.
After what seems like a blink, apparently 3 hours have passed as my iPhone alarm wakes me up. I find a German petrol station, diesel is 30p cheaper than the UK.
Finally – Das Autobahn!
No Kraftwerk to be heard on German FM, only American Forces Radio telling service personnel that if they are caught putting litter in non-US garbage cans they WILL face prosecution and their US Forces contracts will be terminated. This is followed by a 20 minute lecture on why everything must be shredded and giving away information is illegal as we are all under threat. A Facebook message comes up – one of my friend commenting about a link another friend found about Americans wanting Prague to be nuked after the Boston bombings.
Time passes by quickly. I see the Allianz Arena in the distance. Its 3pm – then I hear an almighty bang. A stone has hit my windscreen from a lorry I over take. I watch the crack grow longer as I drive. More pressure to get pictures published as now I have something else to pay for.
The kind German stewards greet me and do the job I prefer stewards doing. In the UK they seem to be the Fun Police, seemingly someone with a rubbish job but on an ego trip when they have a flourescent jacket on and always on to you be it a fan for standing up, standing in the wrong place or a media person trying to do their job. Here in Munich I am greeted at the car park entrance. I am asked if I have had a nice journey, if I am jealous there are no English teams in the UCL and if I want to sleep, the it is suggested that I parking in the back left of the stadium garage as it is a little darker there. What a nice man!
PS Aston Villa dont even have a car park for press photographers! Arsenal have an underground car park, as do Chelsea, but we can only dream of parking there.
3hr more sleep then I walk around the stadium stretching my legs looking at the satellite and TV trucks before meeting other English photographers.
Bavarian food is offered in the press room.
Then washed down with about a litre of apple juice and some cola.
This is my fourth trip to Bayern Munich this season. Or is it my third? I cant remember. I used to be full of little stats – 149 football league grounds done in Scotland, Wales and England, 252 Simple Minds concerts, 14,789km covered doing the France 98 World Cup – now I can not remember a thing!
I do however remember being stung when Bayern played Lille in the Group stages. 3-0 up after 23 minutes, 5-0 up at half time – And I was doing Lille attack!
Four finals in the past five years and no trophy to show – most football pundits still say an El Classico Final at Wembley. I disagree.
Messi is pissed off, so am I.
Barca are terrible. They don’t even come anywhere near my lens. The second half I have a nightmare too. The second goal is from a header across goal – I am blocked. The third goal is a wonder goal from Robben. It would have been a wonder picture for me, but at the moment the ball is strategically kicked, bending around the diving goalkeeper, a Barca player puts his arm across my frame and there is no way I’m sending that out to newspapers as a live picture!
With the score 3-0, I still think Barca can come back despite my predictions that they will lose!
Schweinsteiger gets tackled and looks hurt. Bayern have a man down. My instinct is that this will be THE news story for the next leg. Suddenly I hear a roar – FOUR NILL!!! I swing my lens around, grab a celebration picture with the ball in the net but alas miss another goal.
My feature work will yet again have to pay the bills. More uncertainty with cash flow!
Facebook comments from people with day jobs are about what a good life and great job I have. I am only happy when I find out that Shrewsbury Town have won 1-0. I dont wear Shrewsbury Town shirts at World Cup Finals for nothing! But money from Shrewsbury Town does not pay for the mortage and does not fund epic adventures around the world. Something has to give.
After a good hour chatting in the photo room all the photographers leave and embark on their own schedules. The Japanese are sleeping close by then getting the ICE train to Dortmund in the morning. One of my colleagues is driving another one with them planning on a 2am hotel stop and then embark again in the morning, whilst the most sensible is getting some sleep and starting off at 10am the next day.
Me? Im off to Dortmund through the night!
Fuel is now £1.25 here! My Mercedes loves being back home on the Autobahn. In the UK the maps facility on the dashboard is quite frankly rubbish. Here in Germany is comes alive, showing roadworks, stationary traffic and all sorts.
Now when I travel from Man U back home through Chester, I can hardly get TalkSport on the radio. 13 hrs East of the French coast and it seems like I have Jason Cundy on the backseat telling jokes and keeping me entertained as cruise control is kept to a modest 128mph.
I get to Dortmund at 05.30. Clubbers are walking home as the sun rises in a city I know and love. Its not the most picturesque city on Planet Earth but I have had some good times here. The last thing I need right now is sleep, so I drive around the WestfallenHalle – a great concert venue that I have been to on many occasions checking out car parking options as recommended by the Munich Photo Mafia.
Borussia Dortmund’s stadium is literally next door. I have seen this stadium grow and grow and grow. It is my favorite stadium. Those who have not been always look at me puzzled and assume that the Nou Camp MUST be the best.
I find an underground €8 car park near the station. My back seat is as comfy as an Ibis Hotel. The Dortmund Railway Station has washrooms. at 13.50 I awake and after a quick wash run to meet Chris who has traveled by train. We go for a bite to eat in the city and comment on how the fans would be throwing chairs at each other in the main square if an English team were here. From Teenage girls to old men, most of the population are walking around in Dortmund colours.
Dortmund celebrate their history with a superb museum.
I certainly don’t have a girl in every country, but I do have a football team in every country and I am not ashamed to say that my German team is Borussia Dortmund – FC Hansa Rostock a close second.
It was Dortmund who found Shinji Kagawa, a £300,000 purchase from Japan and later sold to Manchester Untied for £18m. It was in Dortmund when working for UEFA I was thrown out of the tunnel area despite having the maximum accreditation as quite simply Dortmund felt photographers should not go there.
Back in the day when I had a great staff job, German TV was run by Premiere and it was my job to take pictures of the BVB captain being interviewed by someone from Permiere TV.
Today the UEFA Champions League is still amazingly branded and fantastically supported by its sponsors.
In the Group stages, BVB beat Real Madrid 2-1. I was there. My pictures are copycat of what I did earlier in the campaign.
Mourinho on the bench
Superb fans – you dont get to see this in the Holte End at Villa!
And like the previous night, more Spanish dejection. This time Ronaldo – and yet again I’m at the wrong end.
If the game had of been 0-0 then prehaps my action would have sufficed. But NO!
The final score is BVB 4-1 Real Madrid. The Spanish are unhappy. So am I.
9 goals, I have only captured one of them!
After meeting up with ‘the lads’ in the car park after the game, I am told of one of them witnessing a crash where an Audi flipped over and burst into flames. Long queues in the road works. Perhaps my night travel adventure was a good idea after all.
Myself and Chris say our goodbyes to two other photographers about to then go to Basel for the Chelsea game. I take Chris to Bruxelles Airport. He shot Man U v Villa for me and tells me tales of RVP’s wonderstrike. I make fun saying he did not get any pictures in the newspapers.
Calais awaits as I wish him will as he is off to cover the other Europa League fixture Fenerbache v Benfica- flying to Istanbul from Bruxelles.
TalkSport keep me entertained once more as I have to return to keeping to speed limits. I get an even bigger smile when the price of Belgian fuel is £1.19! I fill my car right to the brim.
The Eurotunnel computers are down. I remain patient. Then I encounter the Passport Control Officers check Czech students on a coach. Perhaps the Americans want them checked. It seems to take an age.
Then I’m through. I wave and smile at the oh so nice customs people and get waved on – luckily no interrogation tonight.
Then my world gets dark once more.
The barrier is down – I have missed the train by about 90 seconds. I now have to wait until 0648 for the next train. There is no point in moaning about the computers or being behind the Czech coach. I have missed the train.
Now I wish the customs officers were going through my car – I could have done an internal valet at the same time!
To make matters worse, upon arrival in the UK, I am at the tail end of a 2 hour queue from a bad smash on the M25 which happened at 6am. I sleep for an hour at a service station – unlike on the continent, I know I will be charged and then fined if I stay more than 2 hours; I’m always in a foul mood when I return to my home country – especially as I see fuel for £1.51 and I need some sleep now.
Seeing a few pictures from my UEFA Champions League fixtures published online lifts my spirits – but angers me more when I see the pictures from photographers who have chosen to sit at the other end from me.
Saying that, its only the first leg of a semi final and as I always say, its best to peak at the final. And upon reflection, this UEFA Champions League has been more than exciting this season. Both legs of Schalke and Galatasaray were epic. I have only done two games in the UK this season, the rest in France, Germany, Istanbul and Spain.
I pull onto my drive at precisely 13.41.
1460 miles driven.
I have people to pay. People to invoice. Visits to the Post Office. Apparently I need to clean the garage. The phone is already ringing with other photographers wanting to talk about Brazil.
Then hear more terrible news about another photographer I know being made redundant.