I leant two things before this match
(1) The Torino team of 1949 were killed in an air disaster when the entire team crashed into Superga Hill near Turin after returning from a game v Benfica in Portugal. I HAD NO IDEA!
(2) Benfica are cursed. The story goes that coach Bela Guttmann cursed the club in 1962 after resigning after achieving a second successive European Cup as he was denied a bonus by the Benfica board. He vowed that the club would not win another European title in 100 years… so far they have lost 8 European Finals since that happening. I HAD NO IDEA!
For all the American readers, this was the Superbowl of the European Soccer League played in the stadium that is home to Juventus of Turin – Benfica v Sevilla.
Was the curse over? Benfica had defeated odds on favourites Juventus in the semi final,as losing finalists to Chelsea last year, surely this was their year.
I would like to think that I am not cursed but just very run down at the moment. Normally I’d play the hypochondriac card, but this week has seen some losses due to ill health in the media game and I feel on this occasion it’s best to play a straight bat. My run down being is not as bad as man flu, but near. The excuse – my lifestyle – just lots of very long days, eating testing terrible food from UK Motorway Service Stations, McDonalds breakfasts and a lack of sleep – I’m no longer an athletic 22 year old capable of not going to sleep for 2-3 days at a time.
Normally at these occasions I’m bust socialising and catching up with old friends but today I was feeling sorry for myself, eating Aspirin and trying to swallow welcome free cold water courtesy of UEFA.
As the game started, all I wanted was for it to finish. If this had been at Stoke City, I am sure I would have left at half time and returned home due to my poorly ways. No need for the violins, but I would have usually been enthused by the utterly magnificent Sevilla support behind me but not when you have the headache from hell and their chants make your head thud that little bit harder.
Being pitch side I had simply no idea on what the closing ceremony was looking like – this was my view but it looked far more impressive on TV!
After drinking 2 litres of water pre-game, I was left to stare at the stadium scoreboard with 34 minutes on the clock wishing it was 90, but there was no way I was going to move.
The first half was OK. I actually captured some OK action shots, mostly of a better quality than at the English Premier League. Action in the goalmouth however was somehow lacking.
0-0 at half time, there was 45 minutes left.
With photographers discussing the warm and pleasant humid conditions, I was shivering and yearning for a hot stinking bath.
As the game went on, all I wanted to achieve was to capture the winning goal – scored at my end! Like in the first half, some OK action but in summary there was no chance.
Despite chances galore by Benfica, their curse resulted in them not scoring and the inevitable 30 minutes of extra time would have to be endured.
A German player came on for Sevilla, only to be replaced a short time later.
Still no one scored. Benfica tried but the curse seemed to remain in place as despite effort after effort the ball would not go in the net. Sometimes it seems that there was a big magnet in the goal repelling the ball back out.
At the end of the day, the picture in normal time was / is the winning goal. In the 118th minute of extra time trying to capture an action picture is not what is required. I just sat with my short lens, some would say played the game of patience others would say ‘watched’ the game being played out in front of me.
There was nothing to shoot, nothing happened. A journalist can write around nothing happening. A photographer has to work hard and find other images.
There was only one solution. Penalties.
I had not moved from my position for well over two hours.
I normally love penalty shootouts as I have probably written on here before. Not when you feel sick, shivering, can’t swallow and want the 15,000 fans behind you to shut up.
The goals started going in. From my position there was no way I could even see the goalkeeper, let alone capture an important save.
The curse continued however. Benfica’s grip on the title was slipping away with a miss, then another.
The Sevilla fans were so emotional.
Man kicking ball was not the picture- I was magnetised by the fans. Very unusual for me but on this occasion I felt I had a better set of pictures of the fans that I would of man kicking ball.
Up stepped a Sevilla player – I don’t know who. I turned around and saw a young girl.
I heard a roar – I assumed Sevilla had won – the young girl was crying with happiness.
Then I had to get up. My legs, back and head all ached. Normally I like to be in the front. Fighting like Mr Nasty to get the best picture. Today I stayed at the back.
It’s only when I look back, I see how privileged I was in achieving some of the things I did. Holding and touching trophies is one of them. The UEFA Champions League trophy is so light but big. It’s the UEFA Europa Cup that catches everyone out. It’s very very heavy indeed.
Hence I had a smile on my face when the Seville captain lifted it. He soon used two hands and then handed it over to his mates.
Two frames of man holding up trophy were preceded by red and white confetti falling from the sky.
I assumed it looked great on TV, but I could not see a thing!
Dreaming of heavy-duty paracetamols, an English Italian photographer kindly drove me back to my hotel. I was pleased I had stuck it out. Being ill is never nice, especially when you have to be bright and alert and ahead of your colleagues. My mandate is normally edit before sleep. Not today, my editing can wait.