Thursday 17th June

This was a long, tiring day. It started with a 7am departure for the airport, where Leechie was due to catch a flight to Cape Town, where he was to spend the next 10 days or so. As we’d learnt in the first week we were here, an early departure was crucial if we were to avoid getting caught up in the early morning gridlock for Sandton (the city’s business district).

Matt came with us, and we went straight to Soccer City from there, for the 1.30pm kick off between Argentina and South Korea. I had to do a job for Zoo Magazine with the ITV pundits, so before I knew it, it was 9.30am and I made my way over to the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) to meet James from Zoo, and the ITV personnel, including Pauline who guided us around the massive site. Having negotiated corridors lined with broadcasting companies from all over the world – Al-Jazeera Sport, for example! – we eventually ended up at the ITV office, and were soon mingling with Adrian Chiles, Andy Townsend, Gareth Southgate and Edgar Davids – today’s panel of pundits at Soccer City. We were then led to the studio (about a 5 minute walk away) to check it out and give us an idea of what to expect for the photos. When we returned, it became clear that things weren’t going to run on time, so I legged it back to the media centre (15 minutes away!) and grabbed all my gear so that later, I could straight from the IBC to the pitch.

I got back to the studio sweating away, composed myself, and went inside, where the presenters were having their make-up applied in time for the rehearsals which I was to shoot. They were all very relaxed and welcoming, and didn’t mind having their picture taken at any time. When the rehearsals got going, I posed James up in the seats amongst them, with the stadium for a backdrop, and then also took some pictures of them chatting to each other, and one with James at the controls of the main camera. All in all, I was happy with what I got, and in a massive rush, made my way to the stadium for the match.

The Argentina fans were just as colourful and expressive as the Africans, and one well-endowed woman was getting a particular amount of attention from the photographers, despite not having a face to match her body!

Before the match, we gathered around the Argentina bench, keen to get a close-up shot of Maradona. I stayed wide to begin with, letting the snappers fight it out amongst themselves during the national anthem, and then went in close just before we were ushered away after the team photos. With a blue sky above and some flash to fill the shadows, I was pleased with what I got, considering the amount of photographers present.

The match had been hyped up with the headlines of ‘The Master and The Apprentice’, as Maradona allowed Lionel Messi to take the field and show the world what all the fuss is about. Every time I’ve seen Messi play, he’s been outstanding…just his body movement, his movement off the ball as well as on it, and his pure speed and skill are second to none…it was a priviledge to witness another outstanding display, as he stood head and shoulders above the opposition, producing a masterful 90 minutes’ football that echoed of his own coach’s past performances. I was pleased to get a photo of him that I’d envisaged before the match (having convinced the woman giving out ‘random’ seating positions to put me near the corner flag)…a wide-angle image as he stepped back to take a corner. I knew he took corners, and I knew he took them with his left foot, but you still have to hope they get a corner, and in the corner you’re sat…so when it all slotted into place, I got what I was after.

Argentina won 4-1, and although Gonzalo Higuain grabbed a hat-trick, it was Messi who controlled the match and yet again, stole the limelight.

We headed back to Randburg, popping in for (yet another) pizza at Luigi’s, and then went back to the Lodge. I gave up my bed for the night, knowing Steve had been uncomfortable for days on the floor mattress, and took his place.

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