Sunday 20th June

With tensions at an all-time high thanks to people sacking off matches that they were down to do and leaving people in the lurch as far as driving is concerned, it sounded like a good idea to get out of the Lodge and enjoy a second Mugg & Bean Tropical Breakfast in consecutive days. Apple, banana, melon and strawberry, in a massive plate-sized bowl, with natural yogurt and muesli as well…I haven’t felt so proud and healthy for weeks. 😉

We drove to Soccer City early today, knowing that it would be busy, and arrived to find they were giving passes out randomly again. Chris, Matt and myself went to the desk at the same time, accepting our’s one after the other, and put in the subtle daily complaint about the random system, and how we’d like to sit in that specific area. Without looking at our accreditation (which would’ve answered his question for him), the Media Officer asked if we were all working together, to which we replied, ‘yes’. He then offered us 3 different areas of the pitch to work in from one another, which we quickly accepted, and off we went. I was to be positioned on the end of the pitch, far side of the goal from the benches, with the goal to my left.

The Brazilian fans were out in force at Soccer City, and were making their presence known even as I entered the stadium, a full 2 hours before kick-off.

I wandered round a full half of the pitch looking for fan pictures, and then made my way round to the benches, where I crept under a group of photographers to find myself kneeling on the sideline ready for a nice, centralised Ivory Coast team photo. The amount of photographers at matches such as this make it almost impossible to shoot both managers as well as a team photo (and certainly not BOTH teams), so I sacrificed the benches on this occassion. Usually, if there’s a photographer also in tribune and you require both the managers and the teams, then the managers will be left to the pitchside snapper, and the guy up top would take care of the groups.

When I sat back down for kick-off, I was astonished to find a seat to my right (on my goalside) left vacant, and 10 minutes in, it was still empty, and this stayed the same for the whole match – unbelievable! It certainly helped my view of the goalmouth, and after 25 minutes, it proved a godsend, when Luis Fabiano smashed the ball home from a tight angle on the far corner of the 6-yard box, up into the roof of the net at the near post to give Brazil the lead. As the celebration went the other way, I looked down at my camera to see a pin sharp image with striker, ball, goal, and goalkeeper all completing the ideal goal picture. I got it cropped, captioned and sent as soon as possible, knowing that it had a good chance for the following day’s papers as an early picture.

In the second half, Brazil looked even more dominant, and they edged further in front, with their goalkeeper Julio Cesar celebrating nicely at our end. Story of the day was yet to come though, as tempers began to flare following a series of late tackles and head-to-head incidents that brought huge groups of players into the melee. At one stage, almost every player came together following another late challenge, and we saw Kaka (amongst others) being lead away by teammates. Having already been booked, all eyes were on the superstar as he was summoned by the referee. The usual protests, pointing and pushing ensued, before the official branded a second yellow in the face of Kaka, followed by a red. Shutters went off like machine guns, as one of the tournament’s (and sport’s) golden boys was sent from the field.

The match finished 3-1 in Brazil’s favour. I stayed pitchside to wire my pictures, as it wasn’t all that cold and there was plenty of room to work in. I spoke to Meggy again on Skype (waking her from her sofa doze!) and showed her the delights of Soccer City from my point of view, and then I returned to the media centre to send the last few images before heading off home.

I wanted to get back in decent time, knowing I had to take Itu to the airport in the morning on a 5.45am departure from the Lodge, for a flight he had to catch to Cape Town, and to pick up a colleague of his, Nakayama, to bring home. This was, however, nothing in comparison to what Matt now faced – a 10-hour lone journey to Port Elizabeth to shoot Chile vs. Switzerland for some specific clients…with a 4pm kick-off in PE, he would have to be leaving roughly 1 hour after we get back.

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