A plate of peas, two dull chicken sausages, a spoonful of butterfly shaped pasta and three very over done sunny side up eggs was my morning breakfast in Russia’s biggest hotel, here in Moscow.
A twenty minute metro ride to Luzhniki Stadium was all it took to a place I have been before. It has been since refurbished, but to me, it has kind of lost its imposing ambience.
There were 12 empty walk through x-ray machines and 12 big, and I mean big, big x-ray machines for bags in the entrance to the stadium, but being photographers we all had to pile into the first one and queue and wait out turn to go through security.
After going through security, we were all manually padded down again by men looking like snooker referees, wearing white gloves and then having to go through the process of opening our bags of a manual check. At least they were thorough, unlike some EPL clubs that I could mention!
Very quickly I was back into my international work mode. Mixing with my dear Japanese colleagues, smiles, hugs, selfies and then lots of stares with nothing to say! German, Argentinian, Dutch and French photographers all had the same topic of conversations on their lips. Ticketing and travel! Over 90 photographers were put on the waiting list for this game. And like myself some finding it currently seemingly impossible to get to certain cities to cover the games.
All the photographers gathered for a meeting in the media conference room, an ideal size for a village Christmas Pantomime, I sat near German Kai who introduced me to my favorite camera ever, the Leica Q, but then my telephone rang. It was my doctor back home demanding that I go to hospital straight away due to the fact that the hospital had thrown away my blood samples for my thyroid tests. I said I would be at least five weeks with him ending the conversation that I was not allowed to go anywhere until I had been retested.
I walked back into the meeting, sitting next to one of the fine Japanese female photographers laughing at my Japanese T-shirt only to discover that the meeting had ended.
Getting tickets to get on to the pitch was nothing short of a hullabaloo, but at least I got pitch-side with many photographers being denied the opportunity. Let’s say some were questioning why photographers who were making their FIFA World Cup debut were getting pitch-side without any hassle where as some with 13 chalked up were on waiting lists.
I was so excited to discover that tournament sponsor Coca Cola were issuing commemorative cups again.
So it was back to it – finding fans to take pictures of. The opening ceremony was Robbie Williams entertaining the crowd and indeed the world. When President Putin spoke you could hear a pin drop.
I had one plan, one aim. To document the first kick as Saudi Arabia started the FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup.
With my lens primed on the centre circle, the referee put his whistle to his mouth – then my viewfinder went dark. A German photographer was getting into position and put his computer in front of my lens. The game kicked off and I missed my picture. I thought I was going crazy at him, none so were the Germans apologising for his behaviour, “He is not a real photographer, he is as you say a Warrior of the Weekend” <Weekend Warrior>.
Saudi Arabia were not at their best. Two-nill down at half time.
No goals captured from me because I was half way up the pitch due to me being ranked very low on ticket distribution and all the prime spots being snapped up.
The game may as well have been 0-0 for me. I got none of the five goals, but I was sat in totally the wrong position.
But everything worked fine. Our transmission methods did not fail.
After the game there was the race back to the hotel.
Completed in just over 30 minutes via the beautiful Moscow Metro system, it was time for a sleep. Four hours and thirty minutes and it is time to get up. It is day one, its not healthy to get wound up or annoyed just yet!