Tag Archives: Brazil

The Nigerian with one arm!

Did I get your attention?  My last post described the process by which I ended up on the pitch for the finals.  Of course nothing is ever simple.  There are of course many little issues that come up in the course of trying to get great pics.  Not the least of this are the other photographers.  By and large, the photography community is a very tight knit group where for the most part we look out for each other.  The number of photographers that came up to me prior to my getting a ticket for the pitch to express their concern was touching.  But there are a small group of photographers who make everyones life miserable.  They can really be put into a number of groups.


The first is the professional who believes that he/she (usually a he) is the only one there.  The fact that there are other there is irrelevant.  We each have a space that is about 2 x 2 feet and it is easy to encroach on our neighbors.  In Belo Horizonte I had another photographer come to sit next to me at the half.  He decided that I should move over away from him to give him more space.  Why, because he said so.  I spent the next half with his lens constantly in my way.  With more experience I would have called an official to get help.


The boards are close to the field.  So when you are shooting down the line, a poorly placed lens can obstruct your view.  Most photographers are sensitive.  They take off their sun shade (if possible) to provide less obstruction and they do not put there equipment up against the boards in a way that they will obstruct.  One bad apple ruins everything.  Most understand this and most listen if they don’t. Operative word, most.


Some photographers show up without professional equipment.  Both Canon and Nikon set up booths where all photographers can borrow equipment.  These folks are the most dangerous.  They borrow most of what they use, the usually do not know how to use it.  They take up space, they cause problems because of ignorance and they often simply do not care.  At one match I had a photographer to my right repeatedly chastising the guy on his other side who he had decided was not a professional and was doing everything wrong…..ouch!


Now to the Nigerian.  When I showed up on the pitch for the finals there was a slight man on my right side.  I usually introduce myself to the photogs on either side of me and he told me that he was from Nigeria.  During the match, he repeatedly left his equipment in a position where it interfered with the line of sight for myself and the guy to my left.  I repeatedly asked him, initially nicely to be more careful and explained proper positioning to him.  I wondered after a while if he understood me but ultimately was certain that he did.  As this went on, I looked over and realized that he had a completely non-functional artificial right arm.  This didn’t affect his ability to shoot, but it was an additional thing that made the process more bizarre.  Now I was feeling sorry for him as he was doing things that made it impossible to get certain shots.  How do you perform a two handed process with only one.  When the match was over, he was very polite, nice and wished me well.  A bizarre event on a great day.


Well the finals of the World Cup took place yesterday.  Unlike my experience to this point, things did not start off very smoothly.  Every credential I had applied for was approved.  But not so this time.  There are always three possibilities, “approved, not approved or rejected.”  “Not approved” means that you can get on a waiting list.  Although my parking pass was approved, my credential for the pitch (field) was “not approved.”  Understanding how this would be handled was very confusing so I went to the media center early the day before the finals.  After much discussion the waiting list would be constructed at 4 PM that day.  I left but had sent an e-mail to one of the FIFA guys.  Parenthetically, they were all nice and reasonable.  I had planned to shoot beach soccer that day and went to the Copacabana.  Thirty minutes after arriving I got an e-mail, “come now.”  Picked everything up, headed to the car and then, “don’t come now, wait until 4 PM.”  Oy!  We were already far enough along that we piled in the car and headed to our favorite lunch buffet near Maracana.  Lunch complete I headed to the media center only to find out that a line for the waiting list had been constructed and there were 40+ people ahead of me.  That good news lasted until the FIFA guy came out and said that they would decide priority based on where you were from and who you worked for and not where you were in the line.  Obviously, a photographer from the country of the finalists had top priority and the 50th photographer from a random country would be low on the totem pole.  They told us that we would likely all be accommodated in the tribune, an area at the top of the stadium that we could shoot from.  Distance is a huge issue from there so I prepared by securing a 600 mm lens from Canon Professional Services.


The next morning, headed to the media center, not really sure what to expect.  Arrive at 9:30 and find out that they would not hand out tickets until 2:45 one hour and fifteen minutes before the match.  So to use some time, I went out and shot fans and security around the stadium.  The security compared to any prior matches was increased, they were everywhere:





















I think the security presence actually affected the number of fans that were around, because there were few when I thought there would be many.  We all assembled at the ticket counter to wait for them to give us the info from the waiting list.  First they would announce the few people who would get pitch spots opened when some photographers actually did not show up.  I knew that I didn’t have any chance so I just wanted it to be over with.  They were going through the list, seemed like it was nearing the end….Limentani, Steven!!!  Holy Shit!!  That’s me, after doing thirteen double takes, pinching myself 25 times and almost tearing up, I was at the counter getting my ticket for the finals of the world cup.  I was on the sideline about 40 yards out, not ideal, but on the pitch just the same.


Atmosphere…electric, fans decked out in there ultimate fan attire.  It actually becomes a game for them to see who can get their picture taken the most.  They approach this in many ways.   Some examples below:

Argentina fans






Argentina fans









One of the nice things about having been at 15 matches is that you develop relationships with the other photographers.  I know that there were at least a dozen there who were cheering for me to get a good credential.  I had one guy from Italy tell me that he would give me a picture of the winner with the world cup since he knew that I wouldn’t get it from the position up above.  Below, a shot of myself with another photographer from Atlanta who has been shooting world cups for years.  He was at one time a FIFA photographer.  PS, he is two years younger then me!!


So there I was, on the pitch.  Rushing to get things in order.  As i have described previously, many teams play it safe when a lot is at stake.  This makes for a boring game.  Not at this match, both teams were going for it.  Germany had the edge in possession, but Argentina had the edge in scoring chances.  Given their previous play, where Germany was dominant and Argentina squeaked by, I viewed Argentina as a team of destiny and figured that they would be the winner.  90 minutes into play the game was 0-0 and we went to two 15 minute periods of overtime.  I was already wondering which end they would have penalty kicks at and whether or not I was well positioned.  And then it happened, gooooooooooooal GERMANY in the 113th minute and my positioning to shoot it was perfect.  My favorite spots would not have been as good.

Mario Gotze





Mario Gotze













Mario Gotze

It would have been hard to be in a better position.  Almost 4000 shots during this game resulting in almost 400 keepers.  Much more to tell you about the day and the game.  But that’s all for now.

There Can Be Only One!

With credit to the Highlander (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kq4SqgxIKM0) every four years with two years of qualifying matches, it comes down to 32 teams in the initial round and almost five weeks of matches to crown the champion.  The semi-finals were not a tremendous surprise.  Brazil, the host nation, the country with the most world cup championships (five) was expected to do well.  Netherlands, never a champion but often a runner up, was expected to be there.  Argentina, my pick for the champion prior to the tournament had been very ordinary through the initial rounds.  But with Lionel Messi my choice for the best player in the world they had managed to continue to play just well enough to get to the next round.  Germany, picked by many to be the champion has been up and down.  There victory over France was mixed.  Quick score and then very pedestrian while they sat on their 1-0 lead.  So this was the background for the two semifinal matches.


Brazilians approached the match against Germany with significant trepidation.  Unwilling to admit that their team was anything but the best, the loss of Neymar to a vertebral body fracture and the suspension of Silva for a second yellow card were big issues.  Silva, the anchor for their defense both physically and from his presence was probably the biggest.  We left Santa Cruz at 7 AM with a plan to arrive 5 hours prior to the match, surely plenty of time to get there.  One wrong turn later, and an arrival 4.5 hours prior to the match provided the first surprise.  All lockers were gone.  The line for credentials longer than for any match and the opportunity to get loaner equipment was minimal.


This gives me an opportunity to explain a few issues that come up at the world cup.  Photographers having equipment stolen has been a huge issue.  My first trip to Belo Horizonte I earned that an AP photographer had a Canon 1DX and a 400 mm, 2.8 lens stolen.  Value about $19,000.  In Brasilia I sat next to an AP photographer from the UK who listed for me the number of people who had things stolen.  Extremely upsetting and a cautionary note since it is very difficult to always have 100% control of your equipment if you are to do your job.  I don’t have the experience to know if this is usual or not, but I have never experienced anything like this before in my travels.  Having a locker allows better control of things since you can lock up a portion of your equipment while doing fan shots or setting up a remote.  The lack of a locker is huge.  The other issue which is just as big is that even though insurance covers equipment, if you have a long lens and body stolen, what do you shoot with?


The math is relatively simple.  When I was credentialed for the world cup, that gave me the opportunity to apply for credentials for individual matches.  Granted a credential for an individual match, I then have to get in line (first come first serve) to get one of the tickets for a chair to shoot from.  This process is very different from many settings in other sports and in the states.  My chair which is associated with a ticket provides me with a two foot wide space with electrical outlets and a high speed internet connection.  If you are unlucky, there is a support structure for the boards taking up some of the space in front of you.  Furthermore, your neighbor and how much they try to encroach on your space can also be an issue.  Photographers are divided into four categories.  Category 1 is for photographers from the countries of the teams playing.  Category 2 is for the host country.  Category 3 is for photographers whose team is still involved in play and category 4 is for everyone else.  As time goes on there are less categories.  For the semi-final match I was in Category 2 but in spite of arriving early, I was number 73 in that category, bad news for getting a prime spot to shoot from.


There are many theories about the optimal place to shoot from.  First choice is end-line or side-line.  End-line provides you with a better opportunity to shoot vertical runs that are coming towards you.  It also provides you with an opportunity to shoot players at very short distances often with contact between two of them.  To be able to cover most of the front of the goal, you must not be to close to the middle.  At least outside of where the box of the 18 yard box hits the end line (soccer folks will understand this).  The sacrifice is that you do not get good shots of the goalie.  Side line 18-20 yards out is optimal.  This gives you good coverage of the goalie, midfield play and diagonal runs.  If you are too far out then there is a greater likelihood of having players obstructing your view of the front of the goal.


FIFA provides you with two shooting options.  Pitch is around the field on both ends and the sideline opposite where the team benches are.  There is also “photo tribune” which is high up in the stadium.  Since I haven’t been there, I can’t tell you what this is like.  Under optimal circumstances there are about 250 photographer positions on the pitch.  For the semifinal match between Brazil and Germany, by the time they reached my number, all end line spots were gone and the best I could do was a sideline position about 40 yards out…not optimal.  All of this is a prelude to the actual match.  The environment was electric.  I have had the opportunity in the US to see lakers-celtics playoff games during the Bird/Johnson era.  Bruins/Montreal playoff games in Hockey.  These do not come even close to the atmosphere at this match.  And of course, before the match, both teams can win!













The start of the match was exciting.  End to end, crisp passing, if anything, advantage Brazil.  Most informed people who were not biased felt that Germany was a likely 1-0 or 2-0 winner.  Then it happened, 11th minute, Thomas Muller scores a goal for Germany.  Interestingly, in the match against France, Germany moved to a more defensive style after scoring and the rest of the match was a real sleeper.  Here, Germany did not clamp things down and it was game on in every way.  Brazil attacked, tempo increased and we were looking forward to a very exciting match.  This came to a crashing halt 12 minutes later when Miroslav Klose scored the second German goal.

Miroslav Klose



Miroslav Klose











I went to my first international match in Rome in 1966.  Since then, I have watched countless matches in different countries and I have never watched anything close to what happened here.  Germany scored in the 24th, 26th and 29th minute.  Four goals in 6 minutes.  Final score 7-1.  What is a comparison?  How about a Super Bowl that is 80-0 at the half and final score 110-7.  How about a basketball game that is 50-10 at the half and 90-18 at the finish.  The demolition of Brazil was complete and it was devastating.  Sitting there, I saw a Brazilian team that after the second goal appeared to give up.  As I watched I simply started to feel sorry for them.  The impact of this event on the Brazilian people is hard to explain.  This was so complete that there are no excuses, there is no explanation.  Being a fan of Italy who won the WC eight years ago and has failed to make it out of the first round for the last two WCs, I understand, sort of.  But in Brazil, this event has simply lost it’s luster!  A little bit of the utter devastation shown here.

Oscar is comforted after the match











Of course, we have to move on.  A couple of my favorites from that match below:

Paulinho, Benedikt Howedes









Hulk, Thomas Muller












So we moved on the next day to Netherlands vs Argentina.  Netherlands had played very well, particularly in their opening match when they spanked the last WC winner, Spain.  Their last match was against Costa Rica, decided on penalty kicks.  So which team would show up?  Argentina, my pre-WC favorite for the finals and victory had been way less than impressive in their prior matches.  This match in many ways the epitome of what can be wrong in a tournament like this.  Both teams playing not to lose.  Very conservative.  Minimal action.  Very glad I did not try to go to S Paolo to shoot in the rain!  This match also decided on penalty kicks in favor of Argentina.


So I sit here today waiting.  I have applied for credentials for the final.  Hopefully I will get them.  That would be match 15 for me.  Either way truly amazing.  Is anybody betting against Germany?  I am!  To me, even though Germany is best on paper, Argentina seems like the team of destiny.  This would stick in the throats of Brazilians.  But Sunday evening we will know.