Friday 25th June

I woke up not with a sore head, but certainly for a yearning for an hour or two longer in bed, but alas, I knew that I needed to catch up on some editing (as well as some diary-writing!), and then head off to the airport to pick up Senor Leech who was due in at 12.45pm. Eminem’s new album helped me through the pictures, and then off to the airport I went. We returned with Leechie in full voice, excited I think by the prospect of the weekend’s upcoming fixture in Bloemfontein. It wasn’t long before he was punting Steve’s rugby ball across the front garden to me, and asking for an up and under back. The game ended after just 4 kicks when I high ball from him travelled just a few yards over my head and beyond my reach, landing square on a sharp security fence spike near the front gate. As the air hissed out of the ball, Leechie quickly tried to hide the evidence…by booting it up into the giant fir tree in the front garden…and there it stayed.

He had decided to have the day off, leaving me to cover the match at Loftus Versfeld between Spain and Chile on my own. The 4 ThinkTank bags we all had between us fitted into the Nissan Tiida hatchback boot perfectly, it really was a sight to behold, and something that had to be recorded!

We took a quicker route there this time, compared to our previous visit when we were stopped at just about every checkpoint possible as we tried to find our way to the PS3 Media Car Park. Local residents littered the roads and pavements wearing a mixture of different high-visibility bibs trying to coax us into their chosen parking positions in exchange for a few Rand. They ran in front of the car, alongside the car, darting around between trees trying to encourage us to leave the car with them. Er…I don’t think so…the official car park is suspect enough.

We arrived in the Media Centre to find it absolutely packed out…clearly the last match in such close proximity to Johannesburg meant that it was the obvious choice for the hoards of media personnel based in the nearby city. I managed to find a desk space after walking round for 5 minutes or so looking, and set up my gear, making do with Wi-Fi for my connection as the cables were all taken. I launched Skype, and before long, was chatting away with a bikini-clad Meggy who was sunbathing in the garden at home…talk about a sight for sore eyes…h-ello! 😉 We spoke for about 40 mins or so about various bits and pieces, although it was just nice to talk that freely, as if we were in the same room together. Typically, her battery went and she retired to the sitting room for power, where Izzy joined her on the sofa.

Time flew by, and before long I was heading out to the pitch to set things up, knowing I needed to get comfy in good time with it being as busy as it seemed to be. I spotted someone I recognised from home pitchside just yards from where my seat was – Kevin Piper, ex-Anglia TV sports presenter, and someone I once thought bore an uncanny resemblance to ex-Leeds footballer Tony Dorigo. I went up and introduced myself, using the Suffolk link to ease into the conversation. Before long, we were chatting about all sorts, and it turned out he was at this particular match to film a friend of mine, Carl Recine from Action Images, as he shot the game, as part of a documentary commissioned by FIFA. I mentioned to him an email I sent to him at the ITV Newsdesk once (that he read out on air!) about the Dorigo point, which he chuckled about, but probably thought was very strange at the same time!

Once the match got going, it was an end-to-end affair, with both teams attacking well.

The first goal resulted from a defensive error on the part of the Chilean goalkeeper, who came running out of his box to tackle Fernando Torres, only to slide the ball straight into the path of David Villa, who hit it first time from the sideline right out near the bench, and watched it bounce into the goal, floating over the heads of the backtracking defenders on it’s way. I was still holding my goalmouth lens at the time, having been prepared for Torres’ run, so when Villa hit it from the far side of the pitch, I was able to get a nice wide double-page-style shot with everything in it…very happy for the first goal.

For this particular match, I’d kept Skype running throughout, and Meg was on the webcam for the best part of the whole game. No doubt she saw me grinning and gurning as I captioned my pictures in front of her, and then uploaded them direct to the Offside site, where she was able to provide an instant opinion! Spain led 2-0 at half time, and even though Chile pulled one back soon into the second half, it was dull in comparison and the match finished with a 2-1 Spanish victory.

I got back into the media centre, and headed straight for the cafe / restaurant, knowing I’d already wired the pictures that needed to go in a rush, and that I could leisurely get the others out in my own time before heading back. With Skype still running, I juggled my time chatting to Megglington, eating my dinner (lasagne, dauphenoise and cucumber) and editing…I notched up a total of 20 pictures from that evening (to the amazement of others, who were trying to squeeze out 50!), then booked my match ticket for the now-apparent Last 16 games between Brazil vs. Chile, and Paraguay vs. Japan, said my goodbyes on Skype, and headed home.

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