I can never understand how a band can have a bad gig – many non-photographers I know can never understand how or why I have a bad game. But today I did. It was a shocker.
Like a footballer, being a photographer is a lot about what is going on in your head and more importantly not being influenced by anyone to make times of dejection even worse.
Football fans mostly fail to comprehend a footballer having a bad time by demanding, claiming and assuming, “because he is on $100,000 – he MUST do a good job”. Psychology, belief and having the ability to be numb and just carry on regardless after blazing three sitters over the bar and having your own demanding fans berating you is a hard thing for a footballer to cope with – only to then score the winning goal and become the hero of the day.
Being a football photographer is the same. It’s mostly filled with disappointments, getting a great shot, only to see someone else sitting three seats down capture it slightly better.
Assumptions by others are the worst. That’s when you lie and nod your head and agree that was a great game when really photographing it was awful, but quite sincerely, most don’t want to listen to why you had a crap game.
I connect to air stewardesses lots in agreeing with their philosophies. Being in local pubs the day before they go to work, their friends look at them with evil envy. Flying on an aeroplane, getting paid to stay in LA results in jealous mates who have NO idea on the realities.
Assumptions of going to Brazil have been huge. The Copacabana and the romance of Rio – the sun, the sea, the beach – “You lucky thing”, they say, unaware of the crime, bad transport, price hikes etc.
Futebol – Brazilian football – Zio, Flamengo, Pele, the Maracana, Jairzinho, the yellow and blue… no one thinks of Alan Shoulder in the same context when going to Carlisle United on a cold Tuesday evening do they!
If an air stewardess has a bad day in her office, if does not matter if she is flying to Paris, Dubai or LA. She has had a bad day. But no one wants to listen. Only those who understand soak up the expressive painful words.
Today I was at the home of Corinthians in Sao Paulo – the FIFA World Club Cup winners of 2013. A newly built, modern spectacular looking stadium, lit by beautiful uninterrupted 23 degree sunshine with a gorgeous deep blue sky. Xherdan Shaqiri in a deep red kit, Lionel Messi wearing the famous white and sky blue Argentina top. The Quarter Final of the FIFA World Cup awaited the winner.
Those who dream about attending such matches, certainly never have to worry about the fact that their home nation, England, were knocked out of the tournament and therefore all English photographers are now in Category Four – the lowest of the low when choosing their pitch-side positions. Basically we are now last in the pecking order when deciding where to sit at a game.
I was refreshed. I had seen the FIFA World Cup from the other side of the fence, the first time in about 20 years. Watching Greece v Costa Rica in a downtown bar in Rio with some very enthusiastic spectators, I saw what the vast majority of people see the FIFA World Cup as via a big rectangle TV screen. The camera work is slick, the colourist in the TV trucks outside the stadium doing a wonderful job to give the viewer the best possible World Cup experience with outstanding colour and contrast being pumped out by satellite dishes to the world. It’s a show, it’s a bloody good show, commentators making the dull moments interesting, video tape operators quickly producing 9 second clip packages containing 6 angles of beautifully focussed HD slow motion footage.
Another great night’s sleep on the night bus.. everything was in my favour.
Pre-game went well… once I had won the game of “Find the Swiss fan” with myself, the stadium screen provided a great backdrop with an image of the coach Ottmar Hitzfeld as some fans cheered on their heroes.
I met yet more really lovely, humble, kind fans from Argentina – this lot supporting the club Racing who WBA’s Claudio Yacob was signed from.
The game starts. The game is challenging to the Swiss, they have to stop Messi. The game is challenging to me, I have to get Messi running through and past Swiss players. But there is a problem. The shadow on the pitch from the unique stadium roof design means that I am a boxer boxing with one arm. For the photographers in the tribune (the stand) it makes a lovely artistic shape in the grass – today my brief is in tatters – the zone where my 400mm lens reaches is in shadow. The sunny background makes the pictures look even more awful. Can I move? The answer is no. 200+ photographers packed in like sardines around the pitch. I’m trapped!
Stewards stand in front of fans supporting Argentina who wish to stand. Some fans will always prefer terracing. The tactics of the stewards are astonishing.
My shoot consists of documenting the unusual. Things perhaps others do not see.
Today, I don’t want to shoot like this though, I want nice crisp colourful action pictures. I get everything but!
An abundance of Messi pictures make the picture library swell even more. I get a good harvest of pictures of quite probably the most famous player on Planet Earth.
Angel di Maria cuts in down his right-wing about 5 times during the 90 minutes of play. Crossing every time I wonder why he plays for Real Madrid. His final ball is poor.
Into Extra Time we go. The shadows get worse!
The Swiss get better. My beliefs of Argentina winning the trophy are decreasing. Ottmar Hitzfeld shows why is he a legend amongst coaches.
My friend on the right-wing fails again. Deciding to cross the ball Roabona style. FAIL!! His effort is awful. I think he is awful. If I was a fan, I’d be shouting to the manager to get him off!
The guy who owns Corinthians hates their rivals Palmeiras. They play in green. Floor tiles that were purchased for the inner parts of the stadium were sent back due to them having small pieces of green in them.
The stadium roof had some sort of plastic/glass on it to protect the paying spectators from the rain and showers from the Sao Paulo skies. There was one major issue though. When the sun shone, it cast a green shadow upon the Corinthians stadium. The roof had to go too.
Back to the game… People sometimes ask, how do you shoot football. I always answer with instinct. Today my instinct was as bad as it could be.
Di Maria cut in. I could see one if not two defenders running in on the far side of the pitch, I was convinced that he would loop the ball over the Swiss defence for one of them to prod home the winning goal and then hopefully come blazing down my lens with emotion and joy…
I moved my lens to cover the attackers with huge anticipation. I then heard the sound I hate to hear – the roar of a crowd when I have no idea why…. The bloody winger who I had berated all match had been selfish and had scored himself.
I literally got two frames of him celebrating before he ran run into the corner where rival photographers filled their boots with mass celebration images.
When one team wins,, one loses….if you don’t get the team celebrating, sometimes the dejection image of the other team is often stronger.
The Swiss pressed as the seconds ticked from the final whistle. First they hit the post then the darling of Swiss football Shaqiri hit the defence wall with a last chance free kick.
I ended up with nothing. All the dejection was at the other end. All the celebrations seemed to be everywhere except where my lens was pointing.
Some Palmeiras tried to grab some of the Argentina flags at the end of the game. Some pushing and shoving ensued – only to be quickly stopped by the local Police/Army/Military.
I missed all that too. The angle of the stands being too steep for me to get a good view. I ended up standing on my hair, holding my camera as high as my arm would stretch to get one frame.
I apologised to my Swiss client at the end of the game, I didn’t feel worthy of being a Category 4 photographer. A bad workman always blames his tools.
I’ll blame the light, the height of the sun, the shadows and awful play.
The game on the TV in the media center showing Belgium v USA looked an epic. Why wasn’t our game as exciting? From my point of view gorgeous colours, dark backgrounds, utterly amazing daylight balanced floodlights made the FIFA World Cup look amazing and something that I dearly wanted to go to.
The fact is, we chose the wrong game at the wrong time of day.
I just have to put a bad day at the office behind me and try again for Germany v France at the Maracana Stadium next time.