What a difference a week makes. Paracetamol, good sleep and good food and I’m back Alive and Kicking.
Upon arriving in Lisbon it was evident I was in the correct city!
Heineken adverts everywhere with a very clever marketing campaign.
I have big history with Portugal, and in particular Lisbon. It was Lisbon where I came to do my first ever foreign football assignment. Covering all three Lisbon clubs in one memorable weekend. Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and of course the forgotten sleeping giant Belenenses.
Most people are precious about their clubs. I am. I don’t have a girl in every country but I do have a team. In Portugal, my club is Belenenses where I did my first ever foreign match.
Even when I went to FC Porto to do head shots and a team group for the UEFA Champions League, I spoke of my fondness of Belenenses to a very friendly, helpful man. He helped me set up my lights, get the list of players ready for me, get the kits – he did everything. At the end I had snapped everyone from the club president to the kit man. The only missing person was the head coach to which I asked the kind man to go and get. He told me he was the head coach and his name was Jose Mourinho. After doing the pictures, he said he would have normally given me a signed shirt but being as though I loved Belenenses I would not appreciate it!
I had no idea who Mourinho was. I do now though!
My favourite European tournament was definitely Euro 2004 in Portugal. Driving around without a care in the world, we had no Sat Nav, but we never got lost.
Today there is a marvellous Metro system in Lisbon.
Again, Champions League branding everywhere.
Fortunately my hotel is right outside a Metro stop in town and right opposite more branding which helps with my pre-game preview features.
I booked this trip back in October 2013. The final next year is in Berlin. Again I’ll book before Christmas. Prices of hotels a week ago ranged from £2000 to £5000 for 3 days! Mine was slightly less than that!
Saying that, in hindsight I would have loved to have flown to Madrid, got a hire car and driven in convoy with the 70,000 fans to Lisbon. It would have been like something out of Wacky Races. The features I would have got in the service stations would have been great, however it would have meant I would have missed the pre-game training sessions that we all do.
Thursday night saw the now mandatory ritual of photographers meeting up and going out for food and drinks. A 4am finish resulted in a lovely lie in.
People have this vision I am on holiday, sun bathing, looking at the sites.
My time is spent doing office work and then trying to finish edit a friend’s wedding I photographed last week. Normally I would take a day or two, however being as though they are personal friends of mine, it’s now taken five days so far. I want to make it right.
Then it was time to go to the stadium for accreditation and cover the training sessions.
These training sessions last an hour each. Security is tight. A fellow cameraman from the UK has one of his cameras stolen. We go on high alert keeping an eye on our gear.
Meeting colleagues from other countries is always good. I meet Tim, a German friend who works for an agency AMA collaborate with. I stick a West Bromwich Albion mascot Baggy Bird on his lens. I have great hopes for this bird at the World Cup… watch this space!
I get the Atletico coach, Simeone and then focus my time on trying to establish how to get down the one side of the stadium tomorrow evening to shoot Sky TV broadcasting pitch side.
Fortunately I know the guys in charge at UEFA but it’s still a logistical nightmare. Its decided to swap numbers and make it up tomorrow.
I pay homage to the spot I captured Angelos Charisteas heading in the winning goal for Greece in the UEFA 2004 Final v Portugal. Standing there feels good. I think I’ll try and sit in my lucky spot again tomorrow evening. That’s one less worry – wondering where to sit and having a game plan.
Then Real Madrid come out.
After 20 minutes it becomes a little tedious so I focus my attention on the sidelines.
Georgie Thompson is there working for Fox Sports. TV personalities, although a different market, are always worth snapping.
I then notice someone who looks important. Quite sincerely I have no idea who she is but she is worthy of snapping and finding out later. Later on equally confused photographers get the nod when Getty colleagues inform us that she is Indian Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone.
However they too had issues too in identifying her. I confirm it must be her me as she was standing next to a guy whose accreditation indicated he was from India. We then find out for sure it is her as she was given VIP treatment and went to visit the trophy. Thinking about it, perhaps its an Indian marketing campaign by UEFA to get Indian TV audiences interested in the final?
Some of my colleagues who arrived today stayed out until 5am. For me I need sleep. I don’t want to get ill again. The final in Lisbon will be my 19th UEFA Champions League Final. It seems only like yesterday I was in Rome covering Ajax and falling in love with Louis Van Gaal’s training sessions – roll on next season with Manchester United!
People come, people go. Agencies get sold, new agencies are born. Thanks to Facebook I am fortunate enough to still be in touch with some old friends. We remind ourselves it was 10 years ago I drove a people carrier to Schalke for the Porto v Monaco final.
On other ways though I want to be at Wembley Stadium for the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final – Derby County v QPR.
My friend Colin Bloomfield is sadly suffering from cancer. He recently lost his father who was the Godfather of my local radio station BBC Radio Shropshire, starting it up from scratch.
Colin now works for BBC Radio Derby, the Derby people think he is a Derby County fan but I know better. He is a Shrewsbury Town fan like me!
Being 31 years old, on 31 minutes the Derby fans are to do a minutes applause. I hope to find a TV or I will try to go into one of the Sky Production trucks to see if they are receiving the Championship Play Off Final.