2014 07 13 The World Cup Final

One of the flat mates came in at 3, another followed at 03.10AM. My bed for the past two weeks has been the apartment couch – its 100% more comfy than the small bedroom single beds – the only disadvantage is that I get woken up lots!

After hearing them chatting, I was totally awake, there was no way I could get back to sleep. I heard the main apartment door shut, one of the guys was on his way to the stadium. I feared that if returned back to sleep, the next thing I knew it would probably be 11AM, so I got up and found myself a taxi to the stadium.

The sometimes 5 hour journey through some of the busiest roads in the world was a very gracious 20 minute journey.

As the clubbing girls of Rio start queuing for the night clubs late, very late, the media started to queue early, very early! Soon I was joined by the world’s press on the curb side waiting for the media centre to open.

AMA02_FIFA_WORLD_CUP_FINALJust after 6AM, once the sun had risen, my cameras were out and I was documenting the security around the stadium. Everyone for sure would have the goals, celebration and dejection of the final, but how many would document the goings on outside the stadium from 6AM?

AMA05_FIFA_WORLD_CUP_FINALChats to a photographer from Japan in front of me then two very nice Argentina photographers telling me in broken English all about the Argentinian leagues made the time pass quite quickly. My pack of biscuits soon went and the small shop across the road selling ham and cheese breakfast pasties was doing a roaring trade to the Police personnel and media in the ever-expanding queue waiting for the stadium to open. By 8AM the big queue was 250 strong. Still another hour to wait.

AMA267638Come 9AM, after X-Ray security checks, we were back in the office place of work – the cold media centre.

The Italians, British, Argentinians, Germans and Japanese all queued up in a respectful manner in anticipation of getting a sticker to indicate their position to choose their pitch side seat in four hours time for the game taking place in 8 hours time.

AMA03_FIFA_WORLD_CUP_FINALThen the Brazilians tried to push in. Without going into details it kicked off to say the least. A FIFA official restored order and firmly put the host photographers in their place.

It was in their interests to queue jump, tell the volunteers in their home language some made up rules and that all the visitors were wrong, but with 41 photographers from Germany and Argentina in category one, over 60 from the host nation in category two, chances for everyone else to get a position for the final, where they wanted was limited.

Again the FIFA media officers were brilliant and certainly acknowledged the situation. If ‘we’ break the FIFA regulations, act rude, shout, go crazy, push, punch, go on the pitch – whatever, FIFA can revoke our accreditation at any time – that means no more FIFA Confederations Cup, no more FIFA Club World Cup and certainly no more FIFA World Cups… our friends from the host nation probably have little vision of going to Russia in four years time. They have nothing to lose except be selfish for the final in their host nation – most arriving without cameras and relying on Camera companies Nikon and Canon in supplying them with equipment.

Then it was time to get my cameras cleaned and checked by the excellent Canon facility in the media centre. It was quite ironic to receive an email from someone questioning having to pay for a photograph when moments prior the Canon Camera Doctor declared that one of my lenses would have to have a big operation to be repaired – another $500 to spend. I was loaned a replacement for the big ball game.

Come ticket allocation time, my 3AM start paid off. I got one of the remaining seats behind the goal – number 26. Probably the same distance I would sit at a Shrewsbury Town or Manchester United game from the goal. Equally I was sat next to a Darren from Leicester who works for Reuters and a Japanese guy I have known for years but have no idea what his name is. Therefore no chance of sitting next to an idiot not knowing how to operate a loaned camera or blissfully unaware of the unwritten photography protocol.

My reasoning for making my seat choice was simple – stick with tradition. Five of the six goals since 1998 had been scored at the top left end. That is where I had been previously, so that’s where I chose to sit today.

AMA267639And so to documenting the goings on outside. Lovely girls dressed in Argentina shirts coupled with colourful Germans looking forward to a fourth FIFA World Cup triumph is what people probably saw on TV or in the newspapers.

AMA267874The reality was hundreds of Police, Military Police, National Guards, road blocks, barriers up on barriers, ticket checking… all very friendly though and certainly not intimidating.

AMA41_FIFA_WORLD_CUP_FINALOf course there was the quirky, but my over ridding memory from the ‘outside’ of the stadium was basically the amount of security.


AMA267873Roads were shut as street cleaners made life annoying for those wanting nice clean backgrounds, for me it added more to the “This is how it was look.”

AMA267867I finally decided to send out an image on the most photographed Zebra Crossing in the world over the past month outside the Maracana Stadium. I’ll probably decide on my best shadow picture next month!

Again, the visual art making the country of Brazil unique from most others I have visited.

AMA267650One last lap around the stadium resulted in a chance meeting with a Bayern Munich fan I have met before. We chatted for about 5 minutes and came up the list of Lille, Munich, Barcelona and Morocco as the places we have met previously.

A shout from the TV girl who took a liking to Baggy Bird saying hello made me feel at home. I have been here over a month now, new acquaintances feel like good friends now.

Then the internet went down inside the stadium. Either I went on the biggest rant ever or bit my tongue and went to the pitch. I was transmitting 22 images at the time. Most frustrating to say the least.

I have not worn a watch all tournament. I have had no concept of time for the past 5 weeks – rather like a true Brazilian I guess! Although I knew the game kicked off at 4pm local time, there was the Closing Ceremony to document too.

AMA267664For one last time, I shot some fans.

AMA267678Some fans got more attention than others.

AMA267691Then it was Closing Ceremony time. Again very unimpressed. Compared to the last tournament, South Africa won that one about 5-0.

AMA267710Beckham was watching with his three boys – I thought my luck was in getting an exclusive shot of him getting a smacker on the cheek, but soon found out the guys in the tribune had got him with Zico and Pele.

My images were worthless.

Now the boring part. People often ask what it is like to shoot a World Cup Final.

My answers are often boring, dour and depressive, but it really is just another game. Fans get hyped up through the media the obvious importance of these games but I get very pissed off if I miss a goal at Aston Villa let alone Shrewsbury Town as I care about doing such games. Do I get nervous. ONE BIG NO! But then I don’t think about what I am doing or having to face or do. That’s not being arrogant or anything, nor is it closing up my emotions either.

The most I have ever been nervous at a football match was when I was photographing my lovely amazing friend Jenny play football after her mother requested me to get a ‘nice’ picture for her grandmother.

I felt under so much self-induced pressure. Very nervous. Seriously nervous, questioning everything I was doing, worrying about settings, fretting abut backgrounds.

Not that I do not care, but producing an image for a big prestigious publication that others assume I can boast about really means nothing, it’s just my job and most of the time I switch off and although do care, I don’t – but getting a picture of one of my friends playing in a women’s football match for her Grandmother meant the world to me and it would be a picture that I may see on a frame which really meant something to someone I know.

Now she is manager of Derby County Ladies so I have no stress if I am required to get pictures of her!!  Photographing coaches is easy compared to players running around with a ball at their feet!

AMA267763Most people would jump up and down and go crazy if they saw Messi. He is just an Argentinian born guy who lives in Spain who kicks a ball. But he just happens to have immense talent as a footballer. The mentality of a Sports Photographer is vastly different to a fan. A World Cup Final is my work place and that is where the conflicts of assumption begin. I am just photographing a bunch of footballers trying to win match – simple as that.

AMA267921Saying all that, I am well aware that the match in front of me is historic. History wants reportage record shots of the event. At least that is what I think so, especially from the final.

As the statue of Christ The Redeemer looked over Rio de Janeiro, it seemed my Christmases had come early again, the Football Gods were looking down on me as Argentina went one-nill up and BOOOM! I got a picture of the goal.

AMA267696But my enthusiasm was soon quashed as the linesman signalled offside.

AMA267695Times when I would gamble and let the action run straight into my lens in other games, instances when I would go for a lovely library picture of a winger running down the wing with the ball before crossing we not so at the Final.

AMA267701Any indication of the ball being crossed across the box and I was concentrating like mad in hoping to get the winning goal.

AMA267757I did get the winning goal but it was up the other end of the pitch. You win some lose some. Today I lost – I was Argentina. But I also felt I had won.

AMA267842Although some Messi dejection images that I sent out during the very latter stages of the game made some European next days newspapers but although I had failed to continue my run of capturing the winning goal in World Cup Finals, on this occasion I was not depressed or unhappy or mad or angry in the slightest.

AMA267849My personal favourite picture that I took of the tournament was one of the last.

AMA267794For me the dejection images probably out weighed the celebration images. The history books will show that Germany were the 2014 Champions. Everyone celebrates Brazil winning the 1970 Final and don’t remember Italy losing – or was no one documenting the Italians?

Will people remember Argentina winning though? Messi, most certainly one of the best players ever, not being a World Cup winner could be a possibility.

Therefore I have to look positive and hope my pension pot of images keep selling in years to come – as I have no regular pension!
AMA267840The trophy lift meant the photographers standing on the pitch. Again some people would go wow at being allowed to stand on the sacred turf of the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro but there was only one thing on my mind – getting the exposure right for the grand ending.

AMA267799I wonder what people in the future will say looking at Emirates Air Stewardesses in the background of pictures like mine. Beautiful, gorgeous, simple images of trophy presentations in years gone simply don’t have hands in the frame of someone holding a camera and camera phones in the background.

But that is the way it was. All 300+ photographers got what they came for, a footballer holding the gold, magnetic trophy.

During the game the huge stadium screens showed epic helicopter images of the Christ Statue with the sun setting behind it. All the photographers went wow and pointed!

With fireworks banging over our heads, I again looked at the stadium screens. Again I went wow, the helicopter pictures of the stadium with fireworks going off looked absolutely tremendous. The camera zoomed to the stadium and I saw the pitch where I was standing. I thought of everyone back home watching who must have also been going wow. I was going wow. On the pitch though, it did not feel like a wow. It actually shocked me on how a dull affair on the pitch it was but how ‘wow’ it looked on the screen. I was just a part of the theatre, one of the extras with the main characters like Schweinsteiger and the new hero Gotze.

AMA267829It was then the big ‘run around’ – hundreds of photographers chasing the footballers with the most adorable trophy in the world.

AMA208_FIFA_WORLD_CUP_FINALThankfully, Germany did most of their celebrating on the pitch.

When it all died down it was time to edit. With me sending from Brazil and my excellent editor in the UK, we combined to pump out over 250 images – quantity is never as important as quality though.

Then it was back to the apartment! A great taxi ride with a fan of Flamengo telling us about their glory days. This is what the FIFA World Cup is to me, sitting with a random taxi driver talking passionately about football.

After having a 20hr day with no food, we raced around the corner to our favourite Italian restaurant Fratelli. The owners and have been so kind letting us use their wifi, cooking us amazing dishes that it was only right to go back there after the final game.


What’s more – the last time Germany had won the FIFA World Cup, a certain Lothar Mathias lifted the trophy. How times change, 24 years later, he was sitting around the corner from five English and one Scottish photographer opposite Brazil legend Carlos Alberta whilst chomping away on an Italian dish.

At the apartment we watched the last 20 minutes of the final on Brazilian TV. The commentary was amazing – the pictures were something else. Had we just been there? It did not ring any bells!

AMA267669Television cameras featured in most of my record shots of the final.

On the big screen, the coverage, the colours, the angles, the replays and indeed the spectacle looked truly wonderful.

AMA267667My FIFA World Cup experience was drastically different to the jealous arm chair viewer at home.

AMA267770After I switched off the TV as my eyes would not open anymore, I thought what a wonderful game, spectacle and theatre I had seen on the 55 inch LG screen in the apartment.

The clever people had been those who had decorated the stadium, installed LED lighting into the otherwise bland roof of the Maracana Stadium.

The man of the match award went to the questionable Lionel Messi. Personally I would have given it to Bastian Schweinsteiger, but the man of the tournament was the TV director sitting in the TV trucks outside the Maracana.

AMA59807The greatest show on Planet Earth had come to an end.

Next stop Russia.


4 responses to “2014 07 13 The World Cup Final

  1. Thanks Matt, enjoyed your shots and blog,really seemed to keep me in touch with the reality of the event.

  2. Thanks for your blogs Matt, I’m not a fan of watching football but have really enjoyed the experience through the eyes of a photographer.
    Until the next one I wish you safe home…..

  3. Great stuff Matt. It’s been a pleasure working alongside you for the last few weeks. I’ve learned a lot from you and your blog & pics continue to be very cool. Keep it up!

  4. patrickbaldwin

    Thank you very much Matthew for all your postings. It’s doubled my enjoyment of the World Cup. I hope you had a safe flight home. Patrick

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