The match for fifth place – ES Setif v Western Sydney Wanderers – in the FIFA Club World Cup here in Morocco was a grand case of modern football going through the motions. After five minutes I was looking at the stadium clock, always a bad sign!
ES Setif are the African Champions League winners, quite good really but I was left wondering as always if these players would make it in the Football League back home in the UK.
With no real challenges or gritty action in front of me, I was left to simply do countless frames of stock photography. Using the Bagpuss theory that one day someone may want a picture of Akram Djahnit of ES Setif.
There was a moment of excitement from my part when a departing Japanese TV cameraman left his intriguing game plan showing the heads of the players and formation to aid him film.
A last minute Beckham-esque free kick by the winners of the 2014 AFC Champions League Western Sydney Wanderers resulted in a penalty shoot out. Winning 3-4 on penalties the African team won.
Almost with a sense of relief, I returned to the media centre and tucked in to the offerings on the media buffet. Six yellow potatoes, some very dodgy looking lasagna, bits of meat I would quite frankly throw away back home and a rock hard bread bun which caused my gums to bleed kind of filled me up for the next contest.
This was the second semi final of the FIFA Club World Cup. San Lorenzo of Argentina and Auckland City FC from New Zealand. The OFC Champions League winners having about 8 fans at the front of the top deck in the main stand, with 6 stewards in bright flourescent jackets on hand to oversee behaviour.
Similar stewards ruining my otherwise clean out of focus background.
I was intrigued by San Lorenzo. I have photographed Boca Juniors and River Plate before. Even Velez Sarsfield, but knew little of San Lorenzo.
Like all Argentinian football, simply amazing fans. My good friend and stunning football photographer Reinaldo Coddou spent a season in Argentina. His work is amazing as is the subject matter.
I kept noticing banners making reference to The Pope, Pope Francis. Of course the new Papa is from Argentina and a 2am Facebook conversation with Margarita a girl I know in Buenos Aires resulted in a mini San Lorenzo education lesson. And some personal info on The Pope!
Not only did she encounter the now Pope in his younger days as a priest, he attended the funeral of her grandmother. Apparently they knew each other.
Pope Francisco as she called him is apparently San Lorenzo’s number one fan!
That explained all the banners and the fans dressed up at The Pope.
San Lorenzo needed more than religion behind them though. We were severely questioning the merits of the Winners of the 2014 Copa Libertadores. Auckland newspapers were praising the merits of their coach in their newspapers before the game. Times of boredom results in reading about such things!
Were the journalists correct about the team that plays in a 3,500 capacity stadium or were San Lorenzo simply not at the races.
San Lorenzo making very hard work of a 2-1 victory after extra time.
At the end of the game there was more woe. The internet practically did not work. A phone call from a Sky Cameraman I know enlightened me that it was taking him over four hours to send a 90 second edited package back to London. A colleague doing important commercial photography for one of the main sponsors ended up slamming his lap top shut and walking out of the stadium.
In spectacular fashion however, I got the result of the evening, a prize car park pass for Saturday’s final. Totally breaking protocol of having to order one online (which we couldn’t) and then having to return back to the stadium on Friday to collect the green piece of paper.
After a late night snack, me not eating as I simply did not feel hungry was followed by some early morning 2am editing. My interest in my pictures was elsewhere. Facebook chatting, reviewing my Amazon book sales and catching up on news back home seemed more beneficial than editing countless images of ES Sarif.
And so to 5am. I woke up with only one thing in my mind. Normally I wake up enthused about an idea I have had about the new AMA server and website but all I could think about was wanting to be sick.
I snoozed like a trooper. This was different to man flu. I decided to get up though as we had an exciting adventurous day planned. By 11am we were in the Duster 4×4 rental vehicle. Excellently driven by Steve into the Atlas mountains.
Set in some of the most stunning landscape I have ever seen, I made a request to stop the Duster and promptly emptied the contents of my stomach over a cliff into white glistening water from melted snow 4000m high up in the mountains.
A brief stop off in the village of Ansi saw a rusty set of goalposts which were documented with great enthusiasm.
Another stop resulted in an encounter with some men from the hills. Initially very friendly, interesting, dignified and polite, after 63 minutes of hounding us in trying to sell us silver bracelets. The weekly market looked magnetic to a photographer feeling a bit better and wanting to focus on documenting the surroundings instead of worrying about the aches and pains all over my body. However the thought of being hounded by sellers meant we drove on into the National Park of Toubkal.
The surroundings were stunning.
The way home saw us encounter more interesting locals. Some wanting 2DH for parking on the side of the road.
The local transport was interesting. Who paints landscapes on their mud flaps?
The evening light on arriving back in Marrakech was awesome.
Still not feeling 100% though I curled up into my hotel bed and was woken 4 hours later with the other guys hungry and wanting and needing nourishment. There was no way I could eat anything.
My bones are aching, my body is tired. Living the dream of foreign football photography feeling rather sorry for myself watching a delightful Bollywood film in an Indian TV channel.