2014 12 16 FIFA Club World Cup – Marrakech

AMA01_MANUTD_LIVERPOOLMobile Telephones are a wonderful thing… Half way through the first half at Manchester Untied v Liverpool I received a text message. Yes I’m supposed to be concentrating on the big game in front of me but intrigue wins me over. It is from another photographer currently in Morocco kindly informing that the game I am covering on Tuesday in the city of Rabat, may well be changed to Marrakech.

AMA02_MANUTD_LIVERPOOLLast year the opening games were in Agadir, this year they are in the city of Rabat. However, it rained. And rained, and rained – to the point the pitch resembled a swimming pool.

The day before I was at Cambridge United v Shrewsbury Town.

AMA34_CAMBRIDGE_SHREWSBURYYoung footballers playing on the pitch at half time during the Sky Bet Football League Two match, to commemorate the Christmas Truce of 1914 when German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and played football.

AMA06_CAMBRIDGE_SHREWSBURYAt Manchester United, with the world at my finger tips, upon clarification from FIFA, my Booking dot com reservation was changed during this half time.

AMA34_MANUTD_LIVERPOOLAlthough €95 down already, this change made things a lot easier especially as it meant that I no longer had to go to Rabat. For the record Mr C – thanks again for the text.

Remind me not to go to Stanstead Airport again. Seemingly suffering mass over capacity, there strangely appeared to be a different kind of traveler than you see at London Heathrow. The quiet calm was no where to be seem. Instead queues galore with panic stricken passengers hurded up like cattle as security focussed on just the X-ray machine with lazy staff going through the motions leaving experienced passengers  with an eagle eye on hand to stop catastrophes of crashing trays coming out of the other end. A sincere nod in acknowledgement to one helpful lady resulted in me doing my bit for karma and also stopping the trays carrying passengers belongings as the exited out of the X-ray machine from causing a bottle neck resulting in a hullabaloo.

DSC05669Talking of bottle necks, it really did not seem like 12 months ago since we were here last. Mad drivers, surrounded by traffic police on every roundabout ready to pounce on anyone who disobeys. Pushing in is part of the culture, as is the sudden change of impeccable social behaviour when being over seen by an array of people in uniform carrying a variety of guns.

DSC05734For all I worry about getting old and having time fly by too quickly, even though we rely so much on mobile telephones and sat nav and GPS technology to guide us around strange cities, the three of us traveling together soon rekindled our skills for getting from A to B around Marrakech.

DSC05735Getting our accreditation early morning and car park passes was effortless. The logistics of FIFA working to full efficiency.

DSC05932Soon we were back in the city walking around and doing what most photographers do best – people watch.

DSC05811Perched high up on a roof top terrace the view of the famous square in Marrakech provided us with lots to see.

DSC05814If men with monkeys and snake charmers trying to get a bit of foreign currency from those who stuck out like a sore thumb was bad enough, it was a sharp reminder not to stare too much, especially at market stall holders.

DSC05737The result would be an instant sell. The solution was to wear sun glasses so no eye contact could be made.

DSC05858Another journey to the stadium after a bite to eat was a more different experience to what we had encountered only hours before. Armed with accreditation passes and car park passes, Police screaming at us telling us to park elsewhere resulted in concerned media officers when relaying our experience when we finally got to the stadium media centre.

Whilst chatting to a journalist from Sudan, I soon realised that I was in front of what was a growing queue for the media buffet. Colourful food filled with spices may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, or mint tea being as though I am in Morocco, but the cultural difference of North African pushing in was in fine form once the go ahead to get food was given. Perhaps I am simply too British but in a world that is in debt, where everyone else seems to be corrupt, if I am going to survive this week I need to change my ways very quickly in order to survive.

AMA03_CRUZ_REALMADRIDFor those who attend, for those who follow the beautiful game, the mantra is that it is all about the fans. Perhaps it was, but its certainly now all about the money.

LED boards surrounding the pitch projecting more light than the floodlights, photographers employed heaps of money to just document play in front of Sony advertisements, as some would say, “The game’s gone.”

AMA16_CRUZ_REALMADRIDWith in minutes – boom – a goal. My tournament off to a great start. Sergio Ramos heading in the first of many Real Madrid goals against the winners of the Americas Champions League of 2014, Cruz Azul.

AMA35_CRUZ_REALMADRIDWith Gareth Bale in fine form, Cristiano Ronaldo and co, there was only going to be one winner.

AMA41_CRUZ_REALMADRIDPerhaps I should study play and tactics more deeply. For all the football I see, I so appreciate running off the ball, space awareness and with my profession certainly do not follow play like a TV camera does or indeed the average spectator. However one thing is for sure, I so prefer shooting Italian and Spanish style of play compared to that of the English game. It may appear to be a rather pompous statement, but my world is a better place if Real Madrid or AC Milan are in front of me.

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 09.10.01A comfortable 0-4 victory with my pictures appearing on various websites around the world in this age of instant digital media, and more importantly a less frantic journey back to our hotel with the prospect of a nice lie in meant stress levels on zero. This did not stop us from walking out of a restaurant when waiting over 20 minutes for drinks to arrive and when busy, remind me not to order late night food in a hotel again via room service.

I anticipated the normally delicious Beef kofta tajine a l’oeuf. Beef braised in a soup like spicy tomato sauce accompanied with an almost floating poached eggs – I got a made up concoction of salty lamb meat.

Did I kick off? …some may read this with great surprise… no. Drinking the one litre of water was more important to satisfy my thirst. And after spending a horrendous eight days sorting out receipts and expenses from the World Cup, my Moroccan daily rules are only going to bed every night, after the accomplishment of having every expenditure documented and all pictures edited and syndicated out, so to wake up with a non-stressful head.

DSC05746Tomorrow is another day. But in Marrakech it will probably be a Groundhog day. Very friendly people, lots of pushing and lots of arguing with people even though you have the correct paper work!

At least it didn’t rain and at least I don’t have the arduous journey of having to get from Rabat to Marrakech for the next round of games.

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