Friday 18th June

The day of England’s 2nd game of the tournament started with a mild panic at Park Lodge, when Steve was unable to find his passport for his flight to Cape Town for their match against Algeria in the evening. One car had already made an early-morning journey to the airport, and Steve was due to fly at about midday, although it wasn’t looking hopeful.

The words, “This is what happens when you live in chaos”, were shouted in anger, as we turned the living room upside down. Ben walks in, and 2 minutes later, he finds it, down the side of the one sofa cushion Steve hasn’t checked…next to his bag he’s packing. And…relax.

I spent the morning editing my previous day’s shoot, going through extra pictures for stock and other action that would be useful for the website, before heading off to Ellis Park again at midday, this time for Slovenia vs. USA, an important match in England’s group. When I arrived, I took all 3 cameras straight to the Canon desk to have the sensors cleaned. I’d noticed spots all over my blue-sky pictures the previous day, usually as a result of changing lenses into the wind or in sunlight, where dust and general crap seems to accumulate. In 40 minutes, they were done and back with me, all for free – a service that would usuaully cost approximately £50 each at Canon authorised service centres back home.

The game itself was a 4pm kick-off, so we knew the sun would not be on the pitch for much more than 20 minutes or so before going down and leaving the sky and floodlights to provide the illumination. I chose to sit on the bench side of the goals this time, with the goal to my right…at some stadiums, we’d been given our passes randomly, but we were able to choose this day, so that’s where I opted for. Having done what was becoming a bit of a routine – shooting fans, a general view and so on, I made my way to the benches and, for the first time, looked up at the VIP areas of the stand to see if there was anyone worth a picture.

And lo and behold, Sepp Blatter, the FIFA President, and Michel Platini, the UEFA President, were stood next to each other laughing and joking together. There aren’t too many occassions where companies smaller than the international wire agencies (Reuters, AP, Getty, AFP etc.) get a chance to shoot the 2 of them together, so this was definitely worth a frame or two.

Only a couple of minutes into the match, and there was already a bust-up between players from the 2 sides, with the referee doing little to intervene. As the match progressed, it became clear that the officials would have to lot to answer for. Slovenia took the lead early on, and came running to my corner to celebrate. Although the pictures weren’t great, they did the job…my first goal and cele of the tournament…thanks to Slovenia. They then bagged a 2nd and ran the other way – this time I was blocked by the idiots inside me for both the goal and cele, who did little to turn their cameras to the action. The 2nd half was a complete turnaround, and the USA scored their 1st early into the half, before snatching a late equaliser and running to my corner to celebrate. NOTE TO SELF: Lock the aperture dial on the back of the camera when you’re squeezed in amongst people, because otherwise it will turn itself as you pick the camera up, change your settings and ruin your pictures. Oh well, lesson learned.

We edited as quickly as possible at the end of the match, knowing that a good journey home would get us to the pub in time to catch the England match on TV. And make it we did – with 20 minutes to spare. Chris and I were first back, and found what must’ve been the last table surface available in the whole place, convenientely on a bar lodge overlooking the biggest screen in the pub – perfect! We squeezed in, ordered food and drinks, and settled in for what turned out to be a terrible performance from England. Nevertheless, a few beers and a pub atmosphere was just what was needed, and we went home happy…knowing that the Cape Town contingent were flying back that night, and were due back to the Lodge at about 6am! Chin up.

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