We spent a few minutes figuring out how to pack the car today, knowing that we had a VW Touran and a tiny Picanto-type car to fit 9 people in (plus gear) for our trip to Soccer City. Marc had changed his flights and was heading home in the evening, so we decided to take him to the stadium with us, get our match tickets, head to the airport to drop him off and have a bite to eat for breakfast / lunch, and then head back, with our gear stored in lockers at the media centre in the meantime.
We crammed 5 into the Touran, plus gear (and Marc’s luggage!), and somehow, against all laws of physics, managed to squeeze 4 (including Christian from GEPA, whose car it was) into the tiny Mr. Bean-mobile. Result! We spent a bit of time at Soccer City before heading off to the airport, where a Mugg & Bean breakfast hit the spot perfectly. It was then time to say our goodbyes to Marc…my roommate for the tournament, and an all-round nice guy. He pushed his fully-laden trolley up the slope towards Terminal A departures, as we walked back to the now-all too familiar rental car area where we’d left the Touran, and journeyed back to the stadium…arriving with hours to spare before kick-off.
As the sun began to emerge from behind the clouds and drop at the same time, I wandered up to the IBC again where I was able to walk over to the TV studio compound to get an elevated view of the Soccer City complex, including the new Nasrec train station and surrounding area. The light was lovely and I managed to get a few nice frames.
Once inside the stadium, I clicked into routine and went on the hunt for some colourful, energetic fans…not hard to come by when Ghana are involved! Pots on heads, yellow, red and black face paint, lively dancing…there were all sorts of characters out and eager to have their picture taken.
When the match got underway, the crowd turned their excitement into raw passion and support, egging their team on non-stop for the duration of the match. I had been positioned right next to an electrical box, one of many made for powering the electronic perimeter ad boards, measuring about 3′ cubed, which proved a real hindrance to my movement during the first few minutes. However, moving the monopod and my legs and the third camera I had down by my side, I managed to turn it to my advantage and ended up enjoying a comfortable shoot, even if the Reuters bloke on my left insisted on resting his camera against the boards rather than over his shoulder when not in use…something I quickly righted!
With the scores tied at 1-1, it went to extra time and with virtually the last touch of the match, Dominic Adiyiah climbed highest as a cross came into the box and fired a header towards the Uruguay goal, only to see it stopped by the hands of Uruguay striker Luis Suarez on the line; a move that resulted in Suarez’ sending off and a penalty being awarded to Ghana.
Up stepped Asamoah Gyan to do the business for Ghana…with 80,000 people in Soccer City holding their breath, he came forward and blasted the ball against the crossbar, before watching it float over and out of play. His hands came up to cover his face as the referee immediately blew the whistle for full time, taking the match to a penalty shoot-out, where everyone around me thought the same thing…that Uruguay could easily go and snatch this one from under their noses and go through without barely deserving it.
And that they did. We’d been told about 10 minutes before the end that the penalties would be taken at the far end from where we were sitting, but were strictly forbidden from leaving our seats to go up to the far end to shoot it. That rule applied even to the people sat at the correct end…no standing behind the goal, or just to the side of it…you had to stay put and do your best from where you were sat. So when the penalties were being taken, the lines of players in the centre circle had their backs to us, as did they also did when the players celebrated, and when the Ghana players’ dejection became a reality. There was very little we could shoot from our end, except for the annoyance of Asamoah Gyan, who turned away from the group and walked towards us with his head in his hands, giving us a good picture to sum up the evening.
As we ventured home in our depleted group of 5 (Valeria, myself, Cath, Joe and Bellis), conversation revolved around the hand ball incident and how we all felt Ghana should’ve won, not just for justice’ sake, but because they played more exciting, attacking football and genuinely looked the better team. All was forgotten when we arrived home though…I needed to be up at 5.45am the next morning to take Valeria to the Gautrain station for her flight to Cape Town, so I went to bed the moment we got in.