BANG! 5.35am my alarm went off, and 10 minutes later I was in the car with Itu and one of his photographers, Kaz, on the way to the airport, a journey that I should know by now like the back of my hand. We cruised there with no hold-ups whatsoever, and a good thing too, because we arrived to find that Nakayama’s flight had arrived 45 minutes early. So with Itu checked in, we had a quick drink at the Mugg & Bean before sending him on his way and heading downstairs to collect our latest visitor.
Surprisingly, we were on the road far earlier than expected, following a return to the Mugg & Bean for an All-American Breakfast (courtesy of our Japanese friends) and home in time to allow me an additional 4 hours’ sleep before leaving for Ellis Park (again…) for Spain’s 2nd group match, against Honduras. With no sat nav available, it was an interesting journey trying to remember how to get from George’s house to the stadium in the most crime-ridden part of the city, without taking a wrong turn. Needless to say, we did take a few wrong turns here and there, but nothing catastrophic, and within an hour we were there.
There isn’t a lot to do at Ellis Park as far as pre-match photos are concerned, and this game was no different. I picked up my pass, spent a few hours editing, Skyping, browsing etc., and then headed out to the stadium. I found out I’d had my Kaka red card picture from the previous day’s Brazil match used on the front of the Daily Mirror at home, and the Fabiano goal picture used in the Daily Express, as well as in 2 German papers…so this sent me out on a good note, and I was ready for action! I was set for Spain attack in the 1st half, which was – unsurprisingly – a busy end of the pitch for us. I opted to take a step back from the usual team group photo and get something different while the teams were lining up for the anthems…I lay down on the pitch from a tight angle to compress the gaps between the players and make them look important and superior.
The match was only 17 minutes old when David Villa turned the Honduran defence and slid the ball home to give Spain a 1-0 lead. A messed the goal up; not sure how, but I did, but the cele made up for it (in my eyes!) as Villa peeled away towards my corner, mouth screaming wide open, tugging on his shirt as he flew by, followed by teammates into the corner of the pitch where he disappeared from my view under a pile of celebrating Spaniards. I checked my photos, tagged the best ones, removed the card and replaced it with a fresh one, ingested it into the laptop and carried on shooting. With the download complete, I opened the first images in Photoshop, ready for editing, captioning and transmitting. As with the previous day’s picture (the Fabiano goal), I knew it was important to get this picture sent ASAP. Although the bright scoreboard at the far end marred the images slightly, there was nothing I could do about it, and I got them moving quickly.
Honduras started to dig in and created a few chances in the second half, but Spain scored another, again through Villa, and it finished 2-0.
Once the music and vuvuzelas calmed down after the match, I removed my earplugs and finished up the editing I’d been doing for 30 minutes after the final whistle. I walked back the long way round the pitch to the corner where we entered and exited the ground (despite the stadium being close to empty, certain officious stewards would not let me walk the quick way down past the managers’ benches). We have to walk up a long flight of stairs from the sunken pitch level up to the street level outside, and as I approached the corner, I was met by a wall of local police and stewards all coming DOWN the stairs…I’m not sure what they were doing, or why, but it took me a good few minutes to squeeze up between them with my bags, against the flow, and out of the ground.
I finished up in good time back in the media centre, and before long we were on the way out of Hillbrow back to Randburg.