Four days in, and on to the second game. Poznan was the destination for our lunch time train and Republic of Ireland v Croatia at the Municipal Stadium was our target. The train outbound had been jammed, with standing room only much of the way. Leaving Warsaw in glorious sunshine, it was a tad disappointing to disembark into a grey, overcast Poznan. The shorts had clearly not been thought through properly. Still, hopes were high that rain would hold off. See if it did or not, below.
On arrival at the stadium, another brief trip to the friendly folk at Canon Professional Services was completed in return for the 1D X and 8-15mm fisheye. It’s an addictive combination. Anyone need a kidney?
Sure enough, on walking out pitch side, the heavens had opened. The stadium roof provided some cover however a light breeze would soon have the rain driving into you. None the less, I began setting up and decided to put the remote camera out. It’s one way of beating the UEFA fifth/sixth officials whom are often (and were) directly between myself and two goals scored in front of me. It paid off to a degree tonight, however as is usual with remote cameras it is entirely luck as to whether it captures anything worth while.
The game finished a disappointing 1-3 defeat for the Irish, but spirits we’re still high. Pictures were edited and sent out, then the homeward journey began. The tram back to the railway station was made all the less weary with a gaggle of vocal Irish support, providing much craic. We’d purchased our tickets as we arrived in Poznan, hoping that we’d be guaranteed a seat. A quick Google Translate later, and we’d discovered we had no reservation. First come first served it was. Initial delight at acquiring a seat was soon replaced with numbness as the four hour ride rolled on. It’s not comfortable sleeping sat up. Bed was a welcome sight back at the apartment.
UEFA’s Euro 2012 in Poland & Ukraine had been a trip long in the planning. Thursday 7th finally saw the plans come to fruition as I boarded the train that would lead me to Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport for my flight to Warsaw.
It was a cold, damp morning in Manchester, and I’d become soaked before I’d even left. It didn’t appear to be a great start to what was destined to be a great trip. Things did however begin to look up, with my transport connections all meeting their schedule and before I knew it I was on the big pink (WizzAir) metal bird headed east.
On arrival in the Polish capital, I met fellow photographer Jake whom I’d be spending the trip with and we made our way to meet Janusz who had kindly agreed an excellent price for rental of his city centre apartment. After being extensively briefed on the operation of the studio flat we were left to our own devices. Job #1 was to collect accreditation from Warsaw’s National Stadium. Easy peasy. Alas, it would have been had we not arrived after it’d closed for the day. A quick rethink later and we opted to collect our pass from Wroclaw before the game the next day. Job #2, bed.
An early train awaited us, for a 5 hour journey to the southern city of Wroclaw to cover the second game of the competition, Russia v Czech Republic. The journey passed by without incident, much in the same vein as the previous day’s had. Accreditation was collected and once settled in to the large, multi storey marquee that was acting as the media centre it was finally time to think about taking some photographs!
Canon Professional Services are onsite at all Polish stadia for the duration of the tournament. This is always welcome news, as it means that cameras can be cleaned properly and some of the more pricey equipment loaned out to give a whirl. My personal choice on this occasion was to be the brand new Canon 1D X body, and the lovely, new 8-15mm fisheye lens. I won’t go in to detail, but it was a dream combination, as was the 1D X and my current 70-200 lens throughout the game itself.
Moving on to the game, my luck had seemingly changed direction. Russia went 2-0 up in the first half with both goals scored at the far end of the pitch. Brilliant! Prayers were done at half time to wish the Russians well on their attacking style in the second half. It paid off, and they thankfully put another two past the Czechs at the right end.
The day ended, in a manner of speaking, with making the return trip into central Wroclaw where a two hour wait for the train back to Warsaw was endured. At 4am we clambered aboard and promptly dropped off to sleep, only to be awoken a couple of hours away from Warsaw with the bright sunlight streaming in through the carriage window. Shattered wasn’t the word. Sleep will be greatly enjoyed this evening.
Two days in the Polish capital of Warsaw, saw me take in the delight of the first football match to be held at the new National Stadium (Stadion Narodowy). The stadium is one of four to have been built in former Soviet stronghold, alongside four in neighbouring Ukraine, to host UEFA’s Euro 2012.
Upon my arrival, I had been greeted by slush clogged streets as the weather was at the tail end of a cold snap. However, much to my delight, on the following day the streets were dry and sky was blue! Dare I say, it was even approaching t-shirt weather.
This, I was most grateful for. After devouring breakfast, I decided on a fifteen minute walk up Nowy Swiat towards the picturesque Old Town. I’d be there before on a number of occasions, but the history and beauty of the area still has an immense draw. After a spot of lunch on the market square, and quick check of my accreditation email (and a dodgy Google translate later), I found I had to make a trip across Warsaw to pick up my pass. Forty five minutes walk later, it was in my hands.. and so, off to the stadium!
Another trip overseas for the second of the international games this week took me to Slovakia’s town of Zilina which was to play host to the Irish. Having changed the venue to MSK Zilina’s Stadion Pod Dubon from Bratislava, an extra 4 hours travelling was added on to an already tight schedule.. but I made it with an hour and a half to spare! Perfect.
Having capitalised on an early chance and taking the lead, Slovakia equalised by half time and neither team could break the deadlock in the second half despite Ireland coming close on numerous occasions. A frustrating end for both teams.
Dublin was the destination over this domestic football break for the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying tie between Ireland and Russia. As always though, it wasn’t just about the football.. much craic was waiting to be enjoyed, and Dublin didn’t disappoint.
The game itself was mostly one sided, with Russia opening up a lead of 0-3 without reply, until Ireland managed what seemed a consolation goal in the late stages of the game. Spurred on by a rapturous home crowd Ireland dominated late play and pulled a second goal back, but despite many late chances the point couldn’t be salvaged and Russia took all three with a 2-3 win at the AVIVA Stadium.
Next stop, Slovakia!