From Russia with Love: Neymar, Messi and delays are all part of the World Cup adventure
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for our Norwich City photographer Paul Chesterton and his son, Dan, out at the World Cup but they’re loving they’re Russian adventures – even if it’s not all been smooth sailing...
The days are all merging into one with the amount of travelling around we’re doing and having to grab sleep at strange times – I can’t believe we’ve been out here for two weeks already!
One of the best days we had was when we went down to the fan park in Volgograd, on the 62nd Army Embankment, when Russia beat Egypt 3-1 in St Petersburg and there must have been about 10,000 Russian fans there.
We went down the front where the big screen was and it was an awesome atmosphere, a real highlight of the trip, especially when Russia scored with all the fans jumping about going crazy.
One of the big dramas we’ve had so far was our flight to Moscow being delayed ahead of Portugal’s 1-0 win over Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium, flying back from Volgograd after England’s 2-1 win over Tunisia.
We knew we were going to be cutting it fine and with how it works out here, anyone who has not shown up an hour before kick-off, their media accreditation gets given to people on a waiting list – so we knew we were in trouble.
We phoned ahead via the Fifa helpline but somewhere the communication broke down and we arrived at 3.20pm and didn’t get to shoot the match, so me and Dan had to sit in the media centre like a couple of plums without tickets to the party.
That was a bit stressful having got out of bed at silly o’clock to be there, we knew it was tight because everything is a bit on the slow side out here with security and things like that, but had the flight departed at 9.30am like it was supposed to we would have been at the Luzhniki for the 3pm kick-off fine.
It wouldn’t have been my usual three hours early so I can grab a bite to eat and relax – like I try to do before Norwich games – but we took the opportunity to catch up on some admin, with our suitcases and kit along for the ride.
So of the eight group games we had planned to shoot, we’re down to seven, but we knew we were cutting it fine. It’s bad enough trying to drive around Carrow Road on a match day – so imagine trying to drive through Moscow half an hour before a World Cup game, it’s mad!
From there we did a bit of England training, then it was on to Brazil against Costa Rica in St Petersburg. Being huge football fans it was all about Neymar. We’d done Messi and Ronaldo before in European finals and games like that but it was the first time we’d done Neymar.
The temper tantrums from him were incredible, he’s a very emotional guy, but he does get kicked around all over the place – which reminded me of James Maddison with Norwich last season to an extent, he’s targeted.
We got the first goal but the celebrations were the other direction to us but then the late goal went in and Neymar ran straight past me, so as a photographer that was a pretty awesome moment I must admit.
Then it was off to Nizhny Novgorod for the England game against Panama, which was just fantastic, goal after goal flying in.
I know it was Panama and it was their first World Cup but you’ve got to beat what’s in front of you and I’ve seen the struggle in past World Cups, so it was good that we did the job properly.
The second half was a little bit flat but that was fair enough, I think Gareth Southgate has got it all bang on, because what may not have come across is the heat. It’s not Qatar hot but it’s hot, I’ve had to drink a lot of water during games, it’s intense.
We were up in the early hours again to fly to St Petersburg for Argentina’s 2-1 win over Nigeria.
I decided to go up on the tribune up in the stand for that one to get some slightly different angles but Dan got a great pitch-side shot of Messi celebrating his great goal.
I got a photo of Dan from up there and he looked like the cat that got the cream! So that was a nice one for the family album.
The amount of Argentina fans was incredible, the atmosphere was beyond belief. There are South Americans everywhere, they’re having a great time.
Then we flew to Kaliningrad for England’s game against Belgium, where we managed to build in a much needed day off.
It was a bit of a strange atmosphere in the stadium because both teams had qualified but I think both sets of fans had fun. I personally was willing England to lose because it physically makes our schedule a lot easier and cheaper, so I was pleased Belgium won 1-0!
We’ve got seven games left but only one more flight as we can use the trains from now on, and then we fly to Dortmund to meet up with Norwich for pre-season. But so far, it’s been great, we’ve felt safe and not seen a hint of trouble.
We just need England to turn it on against Colombia on Tuesday now because I think we can beat them – but it will be tough.