Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Johannesburg came to a standstill on Friday. The South Africans had waited eight long years for this day to finally arrive. The Getty Images photographers that were covering the game that started at 4pm left the apartments at seven in the morning to beat the traffic. Only half of our photographers were assigned to the game and I was in the group that was given the day off. I would have loved to be at the game, but instead I got to enjoy the game at a pub in the city, which might have been more fun than actually going to the match.
When I left my apartment at midday, the ring of the vuvuzela horns was already filling the air. I walked to where we were going to watch the game with another Getty Images photographer, Streeter Lecka. It was complete chaos in the streets, and this was four hours before South Africa was going to kick off against Mexico. We made it to the bar and although there were only a few people in it so far, we were lucky to get the last table that wasn’t reserved. Three hours later, the bar was full and the streets were empty, and by time kick off happened, the South Africans almost couldn’t contain there excitement anymore. The photographers that were at the stadium later told me that when South Africa scored the first goal of the match, it was louder than standing next to a Formula 1 race car. It wasn’t quite that loud at the bar, but when the ball went in to the goal to put South Africa up 1-0, the fans went wild.
The next day I got my first opportunity to shoot a World Cup match. I was assigned to the Argentina v Nigeria game at Ellis Park, which is a historic stadium in the heart of Johannesburg. We arrived five hours before kickoff, but there were already fans surrounding the stadium waiting to get in. After walking in to the photographers work room, I realized how lucky I was to work for Getty Images. There was a line about 100 photographers long waiting to get their seat assignment for the game. All the major agencies have assigned seats so we don’t have to wait in line. One photographer told me that he sometime arrives over eight hours before the match is due to begin just to make sure he gets the seat that he wants.
I have covered numerous Super Bowls, Olympics, and other major sporting events, but almost nothing compared to atmosphere at the match – and this was only the first round. All the photographers were shoved in so close together it almost felt like we were sardines. It was quite hard to get my bearings sorted at first. I was trying to figure out the best way to see over the high advertising boards in front of us, and deal with the photographers on both sides of me constantly bumping in to me.
The Argentina crowd and their head coach, football legend Diego Maradona, went wild when they scored the first and only goal of the match. It was on the far side of field from where I was sitting so I wasn’t able to get the shot on goal, but I got a few decent celebration pictures when Gabriel Heinze, who scored the goal, went running back towards the bench. I spent the rest of the match hoping that there would be another goal in front of me, but also worrying that if there was, I might miss it. There were no more goals to be had that day, but it was amazing to watch Lionel Messi, who is considered by most people to be the best player in the world, work his magic out on the field.
You could hardly hear the final whistle blow over the sound of the vuvuzelas. Maradona and his team celebrated getting one win under their belt to start the tournament, and I was happy to have one game under my belt without missing any pictures. Hopefully, I will be more comfortable for my next game and be ready when the big picture does come my way.