How to get to the Final…(III)

UEFA Champions League Final 2014

…or die trying. D-Day has arrived. The great Spanish Final party is about to begin. 6.30 in the morning and the sunlight starts leaking through my window, arriving straight with the soft winds from the Tejo. Madragoa went to bed late with young people looking for a last bite of food in a take-away right under my window. So I slept just about four hours. Quick shower, coffee and muffin in a typical Lisbon bar and road to Estadio da Luz. I pick up my colleague Ivan and we arrive to the stadium at 10 am. We check day schedule, prepare our equipment, software and images metadata for the match. With my first ‘date’ with Canon Professional Services at 1pm, I go outside the stadium and take the opportunity to shot some pictures of the accesses, signs, official shops and surroundings.

UEFA Champions League Final 2014

First stop after downloading and editing these first images of the D-Day, the restaurant. 12pm and I used my second meal voucher to taste another delicious UEFA sponsored menu. Last bite until 1am!! – well, being honest, I took one banana, one apple and a small pie just in case I needed energy-. Just after that, I went straight to the Canon guys to borrow some photo gear. In that case, same as yesterday, one Canon 1dX body and the super funny 8-15mm f4 lens fisheye to go with.  You can see above a curious photograph taken with this lens. I couldn’t get to the Briefing Meeting hold by UEFA guys to explain to the photographers about match timing, ceremony schedule, etc… Luckily I could count on my friend Ivan to pass me every detail. Thanks! Just after the briefing, it was time to choose my position on the field, pick up my Bib and pitch passes. UEFA organization in these matters is exceptional. The system to assign our places around the pitch is as follows: by Wednesday, each photographer receive in his e-mail box a list with three priority groups. First group with 63 photographers. Second one with 45 and the third with just 21.  So with this list, UEFA guys call us by list order  the match day, and we choose our place on a pitch map showed up on a big screen.

UEFA Champions League Final 2014

Almost 3pm . Jitters are increasing hour-by-hour.  We are supposed to enter the pitch at 4.45pm so Ivan and me we spent our last minutes resting a little and catching funny images…

UEFA Champions League Final 2014

Some get nervous, others…  Time over. We enter the pitch and look for our sit. Mine is number 128, not so far from Ivan’s. I am three places away from the corner. Not bad for eventual goal celebrations, but we will speak later about that… Sun is shinning, the stands are welcoming supporters minute-by-minute. I spent a few minutes sitting on my chair just ‘feeling’ the atmosphere and getting use to my new room for the next…six hours!

UEFA Champions League Final 2014

After these moments of ‘introspection’, I walk around the field observing the stands and looking for fans to take some interesting images before the match, and  suddenly, I raise  my head and see ‘The Trophy’… yes, Cup of Europe, the UEFA Champions League Cup escorted by some UEFA guys. I almost run to the corner and take these pictures. Time goes by very fast and I realized  it’s 7.35pm -local time -, just ten minutes left for the kick off and about 70 photographers  are struggling to get some space to start running towards the benches to shoot VIP tribune and lineups. UEFA staff open the rope to access to the pitch side and… run!!! I see -while running carrying all the equipment- the supporters watching us with a surprised look like thinking…Are they serious?! Champions League anthem start s playing and both teams are  ready on the pitch. Real  Madrid head shots and on my way back to my place. Kick off and game on! The story of the match we all know. Quick synopsis: Atletico de Madrid score with good/bad luck -depending the team- and Real Madrid manages the match with a draw until minute 93. Sergio Ramos heads the ball and place it far from Courtois’ hands. I was very happy because… I had 30 more minutes to shoot such an amazing match. One thing I wasn’t happy for it was about goal celebrations. I missed each and everyone of them. Players scoring on my goal – all of them -ran towards  the other corner… damn!! Game was about to finish and with a 4-1 score to Real Madrid, it was time to be ready to… run again. First winner team players’ celebration on the pitch, followed by losers picking up their medals, Iker Casillas raising the trophy, team photo laying down on the pitch with the cup and more celebrations with the trophy.

UEFA Champions League Final 2014

After twelve hours since I arrived to the stadium , I finished my work and start packing my equipment. Amazing experience, great atmosphere and, I hope, first of a lot of UEFA Champions League finals I will cover…