Finally, with a late game at Ellis Park, we had a chance in the morning to get people to the airport and add the additional drivers onto the cars. I did very little today, making the most of our evening appointment.
Although there was not a cloud in the sky, we’d been able to feel the cold all day, and knew that the late night would be a very chilly affair. We packed the car up and headed to the stadium, located in the roughest part of downtown Johannesburg, near the notorious Hillbrow and Rosebank areas. There’s a cylindrical tower block overlooking the stadium called the Ponte City Apartments, with a giant Vodacom banner wrapped around the top. From afar it looks like the corporate headquarters of a global company, but up close, you see sheets and towels across the windows and hanging out of the rooms, the grimey walls become clear, and it soons becomes apparent that it really is the drug den governed by the Nigerian gangs responsible for the majority of crime in the city that everyone describes it as.
We took the sat nav off the windscreen for the final couple of miles into the stadium, and were relieved to get into the car park, having struggled to get through 5 or 6 checkpoints requiring a pass on the way.
By the time the match kicked off, we really needed the gloves…and the hat…and the thermals too…it was cold! I stood by the halfway line waiting for the Brazilian and North Korean teams to emerge, and was astounded by a conversation I heard next to me. An African ‘photographer’ was struggling to understand why the pictures on the back of his ‘loaned’ Nikon D3s were so dark. Now, bearing in mind we were shooting Brazil in the World Cup, I didn’t expect to see this. He had a lens that was not nearly good enough for the light, and had gone to Nikon in the Media Centre and borrowed a £3,000 camera to put it on. A photographer on the front row had to help him change just about every setting on the camera before he could use it. The reason the sidelines are so busy is due to idiots like this, and it really winds me up!
Anyhow, the match produced some nice pictures I felt, with quite a dynamic moment happening in the first few minutes, when a Korean player got airbourne as he flew over a Brazilian challenge on the wing.
Brazil went on to win 2-1, far from convincing, and the winning celebration provided a nice picture in the corner where I was sat, and I shot it with quite a wide lens to keep the stadium and teammates in the shot.
We left the stadium not long after the final whistle, keen not to be the last to leave. Halfway home, Chris realised he’d left a camera and lens on his table – driving back through Hillbrow was not an appealing proposition, so he rang Bellis who, after some kidding, admitted he’d picked it up…relief! Only halfway through the group stage, that would certainly not have been welcome news.