World Cup #1

Kick-off for the World Cup in South Africa is just over 30 days away and this photographer will be watching the countdown with a special interest.

Amongst shifts and projects for the Calgary Herald I’ve managed to start preparing for the trip to the deep, deep south. It’s a trip every footy fan has surely contemplated but not every one has had the opportunity or fortitude to follow through; their better judgement perhaps winning out.

Well, my better judgement has been collected, wrapped up and locked away for a few months. Whatever the result, I’m going to South Africa 2010.

This will be my first World Cup. An admitted ‘Football’ fan, I’ve always wanted to go to one – turns out South Africa 2010 is the one.

Despite the decision to go forth with the trip, it had yet to take a logistical shape, up until recently; what was I going to do once I got there? There were a couple thoughts.

In the interest of maybe making a few dollars back from this particular trip – it’s a privately funded venture – I’ve been in touch with various publications asking of any interest of South Africa related stories they might want images for. There have been a few nibbles so far. There are also a couple self-generated stories that will probably be worked on too.

The obvious question of ‘how to attend/photograph any games?’ remained, however.

After a few well placed emails, the answer came somewhat quickly.

With apparently amazing timing, World Cup media accreditation has been gained through Inside Soccer Magazine (ISM). After an email, the Canada Soccer Association (CSA) passed my contact info, website and blog on to the publisher of ISM, Alfons Rubbens, who apparently had a vacant photo pass. A couple emails and a phone call later, the accreditation process was underway.

It’s a lesson for anyone who doubts the power of self-promotion.

Through Alfons contact was been made with Toronto, Canada based ISM/soccer writer Kris Fernandes, a veteran of Germany 2006 and Austria/Switzerland 2008. Through Kris’s guidance, and that of Richard Scott of CSA, it appears I’ll get a game or two (or 10).

But in the meantime, I’ve been doing a little reading to get into the mood. A couple books on South Africa and one on football.

A Rainbow in the Night, by Dominique Lapierre:

Dutch colony, Calvanists, British colonialism, Zulu warriors, the Great Trek, apartheid, Mandela – South Africa’s history is nothing else if not interesting. Lapierre does a good job blending the nation’s most significant events with some of the country’s lesser known, yet important, moments to tell the story of the Rainbow Nation.

The World is Ball, by John Doyle:

I was able to pick up an uncorrected proof of this at the office. It will likely be referenced in the blog entries to come. Doyle is an observer of moments. Simple as that. He describes moments experienced while covering recent World Cups and Euro Championships. Though an obviously well equipped soccer writer, his detailed and colourful tellings of footy related travels are motivation enough for any football fan contemplating taking the big step.

Playing the Enemy, by John Carlin:

The book Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus was based on, tells the story of Nelson Mandela and how he chose to deal with the apartheid values of the white establishment and the deeply seeded resentment of the black and coloured majority following his release from 28 years of imprisonment. As the newly elected president he tried, with his intellect, ever present smile and unwillingness to show prejudice or preference to either side, to rally the entire nation behind their rugby team, the Springboks, during the South Africa rugby world cup in 1995.

He of course was successful. Yes there were people and efforts that helped the cause, including the nation’s rugby team and other wheelings and dealings behind closed doors, but his decisions to have both of the country’s anthems played before games and to personally wear the Springboks’ jersey, long a symbol of white rule in the country, proved the choices that finally swayed most of the naysayers. The Springboks beat New Zealand in the tournament’s final. And there was Mandela, front and centre, wearing green and loving it. Showing both sides that South Africa, as a whole, was allowed to enjoy the moment.

I watched that game at the age of 16, thanks to my father, a rugby aficionado and former scrum-half. In our household the rugby world cup was a close second to football’s global tournament. My English blood had me glad to see New Zealand’s Jonah Lomu, who had literally run over England in the earlier semi-final, beaten. But thanks to Carlin, the joyous images of the trophy celebrations now have a proper context.

“You gotta love sports!” – some Seinfeld episode.

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