A lie-in on the 2nd day of matches was a real bonus, especially considering we were shooting England vs. USA in Rustenburg at 8.30pm. Leaving at 10.30am, Chris and I made our way to the Mugg & Bean for breakfast before going to pick George up again and drive to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, approx. 2 hours north west of Johannesburg. Blue skies yet again, but this time, we were definately taking the jackets (and scarves and gloves), because those of us that shot there last year were all too well aware how cold it gets when the sun goes down.
I’d only been sat down for half an hour or so when Leechie approached me and said we needed to do some photos for Zoo, of a couple of their guys in their standard Zoo t-shirts with a bunch of England fans just over the road from the stadium. This turned out to be quite a good laugh, mixing the locals who were there with the hoards of England supporters already getting stuck into their 2nd crates of Castle.
Pics done, and it was back to the media centre and then just a 4 hour wait for kick-off.
We made the long trek out to the pitchside…up and down flights of stairs, down cold corridors, up more steps, and onto the running track going round the pitch. All we could see as we emerged was hoards of St. George Cross flags and banners, stretching all the way round from one end of the stadium to the other, and still, all we could hear was vuvuzelas. England fans were spread out over the whole stadium…not one area was dedicated to one team’s supporters. I made my way over to the corner of the ground looking down the running track towards the managers’ benches. As the teams warmed up, I spotted a suited David Beckham sitting on the bench alongside the injured Rio Ferdinand. I had a good view of the two of them as they laughed and joked together, and then they walked back down the tunnel, shortly before we were escorted down to sideline ourselves. During the national anthems, a lot of photographers concentrated on the bench rather than the players, as Fabio Capello and David Beckham were both easily accessible for some nice portraits. I took a couple of frames before turning to the players, to see Wayne Rooney stood with his head held high and a clean background. The lights are incredible at the Royal Bafokeng, and I was able to get some nice pics as he stood there during the anthems.
As the match kicked off, it became obvious that it was going to be a very uncomfortable 90 minutes, with all of us wedged in like sardines on the end of the pitch, struggling to see the goal without blocking the person behind.
After just 4 minutes, England took the lead through Steven Gerrard…at the far end. Oh well, you can only shoot what’s in front of you. The rest of the match proved to be a cagey affair, and just before half time, USA equalised through a scuffed left-foot shot from Clint Dempsey that Robert Green fumbled and let roll in to the back of the net. Even though Gerrard opened the scoring early for the papers, and pulled out a strong cele to go with it, it was clear that Green’s error would be the story the match, as far as the UK papers are concerned, especially if we were to finish off with a draw…which we did.
Photos wired, and an hour later it was time to leave…some people were in a particular rush to get home as they were taking on the 4 hour drive to Polokwane the next day for a 1.30pm kick off. We had an awful journey home…a single-carriageway road coupled with tolls made sure that we didn’t get home much before 4am. Oh, and the 3-car pile-up following a police chase didn’t help either.