My first World Cup experience was watching Argentina 78 on a little black and white TV hooked up to a car battery in a caravan whilst on holiday in Borth, Wales. It looked even better on colour TV and when I finally set foot in the River Plate stadium about 10 or so years ago, I felt I was in my own Mecca.
Espana 82 was great. Sprinting home after school, not doing any homework for a month and being glued to one of the greatest games ever – Italy v Brazil in the old Espanyol stadium will hopefully remain with me for ever and a day. I don’t want to die from Alzheimers.
Mexico 86 was when we got a Betamax Video Recorder. I wore out a tape playing this back and forth.
Then there was Italia 90 – Fantastico in ever sense of the word. I never even thought of the concept that I would later have attended more games in the San Siro than Old Trafford.
By USA 94 came around I was a news and sport photographer. I knew of some who were going to the World Cup but the concept of going to one had never even entered into my head. What happened just happened.
So my first was France 98 – based in Montpellier I was in my element driving around the sunny south and heading up to Paris for the final.
Korea / Japan 02 was and will always be my favorite for many reasons. Not because I am a Japan freak but because I spent three years going to and from Japan, falling in love each time with cities like Osaka, Niigata, Sapporo and documenting the stadiums being built. My fondest memory was being in a Shinkansen carriage FULL and I mean full, of Japan girls all wearing Argentina shirts.
Germany 06 was my first World Cup that I did for myself. AMA was born. Germany was an absolute pleasure and in many ways probably the best world cup in terms of organisation and ease to travel. During that month, many Englishmen grew very fond of Germany, including myself. I missed the Zidane headbut but so did the other 200 around the pitch!
South Africa was just South Africa – colourful, eye-opening and despite all the hardships, everything just worked out fine.
And now onto Brazil. The romance of the World Cup got this tournament in the biggest country of South America even before anyone gave their vote.
It’s fair to say that this World Cup will be unlike anything else for the past 30 years at least. All the other countries selected to host the greatest show on earth have one thing in common – a great infrastructure.
Even in South Africa – https://amasportsphotoagency.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/day-11-road-trip-to-port-elizabeth/
At least everyone traveling was in charge of their own destiny.
I don’t want to be too negative about Brazil but when I was in Fortaleza and I asked who long it was to drive to Rio, I was given the answer of 5 days. Brazil is big. Very big. Us Europeans don’t appreciate how big it is. Travel is very challenging at the best of times.
Another downpour in Miami reminded me yet again not to go to Orlando in June – the roads around my hotel were 2 inches deep with rain water after a midday cloud burst.
Traveling light as ever it was time to go to the airport once again. Security again getting the better of me. Every lens and camera being swabbed for explosives. Shoes off, belt off, and then Krypton Factor challenge to re-pack!
The International side of Miami Airport was rather surprisingly littered with Brazil 2014 stores and stalls – unlike the domestic one that I passed through a few days earlier for my day trip to Boston.
I then saw Jurgen Klinsmann the USMNT head coach. OK US Men’s National Team head coach walking with Berti Vogts.
I thought for one moment that he was going to walk into the path of two American Airlines Air Stewardesses, dive and roll around in search for a penalty but the reality was that two girls eagle-eyed girls sitting opposite me listening to their iPods – with I assume One Direction on – leapt up and ran to Jurgen who gladly had his photograph taken with them. There is nothing worse than not having a camera to hand! FAIL!
So after getting my lovely Sony RX100ii out of the bag, I walked around in hunt of Jurgen. He had disappeared.
I then began spotting things and started taking pictures – first very secretively, looking over my shoulder like a cop in an American movie to see who was watching me.
Miami is a hub for South America. Most Americans appeared to be walking past, whilst the Hispanics were enjoying the sideshow.
I got more confident with my snapping, in fact by now I was walking around snapping like I was walking around Tokyo. If this had have been at Heathrow I would have probably been locked up for sure.
The US magazine stands actually had a front image of Soccer. With respect, it is usually NHL Ice Hockey at this time of the year, but ESPN going full-out in producing a 2014 World Cup Guide.
Even the book shops had a World Cup theme to them.
Alas only one picture in Mr Beckham’s latest offering! Taken in Sapporo, Japan on then the best digital camera money could buy – now nothing but a museum piece with many photographers hanging their heads in shame wishing that they had stuck with film for a few more years!
The England media left after the Honduras game, the tabloid hacks no doubt dressed in Miami Vice type light coloured jackets and looking dash and very English.
Cultural difference meant that the Honduras writers were waiting at the airport in their Honduras football tops with their Honduran FA laminated passes hanging around their necks by some brown string.
Today there were many flights going to Brazil – Recife a place I sadly won’t get to.
I put my hand in my pocket and saw a journalist that I recognised waiting for his flight to depart. I offered him my car park pass for the Sun Life Stadium that was still upon my person but he declined!
OK he said? I nodded and smiled. Then his colleague said “No money, no bastard god damn money”. He went on to explain that he had only got an American Express card which was not widely used at ATM’s in Brazil unlike the USA. I still did not really understand what he meant.
Then it dawned on me. I went myself to the Foreign Currency Exchange desk. Normally I would just take the small bank charge hit and withdraw money as and when I needed it in Rio, but prior to coming to Miami, I had a little mis-hap.
I stupidly lost my VISA card. Even more annoyingly Lloyds Bank refused to send one on to me to Brazil, so they posted it to my home address. They only cater for the average man with 2.5 children and a cat and a dog. Certainly not a band manager of a rock band working with money in a different city each and every day.
Even more annoying that, I needed that card to use with a Lloyds Bank card reader to generate secure authorisation keys in order to gain access to my online business account. Things like paying people, completing VAT returns are all very boring but are of course very much needed things to do.
Today I learnt that the card in a DHL package that had been sent to me from home to Rio had arrived before me. Woo Hoo! No. …. it was now on its way back home due to my passport number not being in with the customs paper work. Stupid fool inputting the information for DHL had not done his job right.
I was now screwed.
This is all real life stuff which most people never have to endure except me. There is always a solution to everything though. Mine was to simply get out about $1000 and turn it into Brazilian currency at the airport.
However, what the nice Honduran man said – was true.
Miami Airport had run out of Brazilian Real.
If I had not got arrested for snapping in the airport, I now I could have done for kicking off at the man behind the pane of glass who appeared to have lost his soul.
“How could you have run out of Brazil money” I said. “We just have,” was his answer, and then the immortal words, “We don’t usually do though.”
“….Hadn’t you noticed that all the shops have Brazil 2014 in them? Hadn’t someone thought to get lots of money in? People are off to Brazil. Where is your manager?”
He told me he was the manager and the whole airport was out of Real and didn’t know what the World Cup was.
“Are you going to get some more?”
“Sir, we just order by our stats and normally we don’t sell much Real”
I turned away muttering, “Its the fucking World Cup…” and probably told him I would see him next Tuesday.
Plan C went into action.
When I went on the car ferry to embark on covering France 1998, one of the last things I ever thought about was returning home. I didn’t even have a return date!
For this world cup though, I’ll be back here July 17th. I’m just glad I was in Brazil in 2013 for the FIFA Confederations Cup and that I know what to expect. Being prepared is everything. Never assume anything, and always have a plan B (or C).
Here goes… World Cup Number Five – and my first without Rio Ferdinand.
Working title for this then Rio#5