From Russia with Love: Paul Chesterton’s World Cup blog. Part One
Paul Chesterton is a familiar figure covering Norwich City games as Archant’s photographer. But Paul and his son, Dan, have swapped Carrow Road for the World Cup to savour a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I’m sat here nursing a huge blister on my foot but it is worth it to experience covering a World Cup alongside my son, Dan.
The problem out here is an exclusion zone is in place around all the stadiums. Take England’s first match against Tunisia in Volgograd. It was a 20-minute walk to the stadium in each direction.
I’ve already learned you don’t argue with the police. Some cabs were able to get through and do drop offs at the media zone. Not ours. But we also wanted to see some of the sights around Volgograd, or Stalingrad as it was previously known.
The problem at the moment is our schedule is so tight we are either travelling or working. Which is why we wanted to go and the impressive war monument.
It was well worth it but I’m paying for it now.
We got back to our hotel after the England game about 4am.
Really this the stuff you dream about. For me to be here with my son photographing England at a World Cup. It is the pinnacle to be honest. Being behind the goal when Lionel Messi misses that penalty for Argentina against Iceland was something else.
I was surprised how few England fans were at the opening game.
I think the official allocation was around 1,400 and I would say Tunisia had two or three times more fans. There were actually a few Russian fans wearing England tops and one or two Premier League tops.
I don’t know if it came through back home but you could hear the chanting for Russia during the game.
We came out the day before the England squad arrived.
You might have seen the pictures of the players playing darts with some of the media at their training camp. We had already shot off by then to get across to Moscow for the opening game between the hosts and Saudia Arabia.
Little did we know what lay in store when we boarded the express out of St Petersburg at 5.30am.
That was a superb journey really and got us to Moscow for about 9am on the opening day of the tournament.
We were keen to get checked in to our hotel and get to the stadium in good time, because we knew how hectic it would be.
When we approached our hotel it looked like this grand, palatial building.
Really top class and we thought we had struck lucky. Then we get shown down the end of this long plantation to what was just about a hut. Four brick walls and two mattresses. Honestly, if we had laid down on them we would have got fleas.
My children will tell you I have often said doing this job you sleep in some ropy places. But nothing like that.
The smell was not just damp, it was something else. We basically decided to head to a Fifa-approved hotel, where you can get a shuttle to the grounds for the press corps. After about 90 minutes of searching for alternative accommodation we booked in there.
It was a bit pricy but needs must. We are out of pocket for £260 as we had booked three nights at the other place.
When I get some down time over here I will be chasing up a refund.
So, anyway, that puts us behind schedule.
Then the shuttle takes 90 minutes to get to the stadium. The traffic in Moscow.
Dear me. I will never complain about London again. Five or six lanes of traffic and no lane discipline.
We eventually get to the ground and we are fully accredited; which is just as well as there was another 90 photographers on a waiting list, with their kit.
Anyone who knows me knows I like to get to Carrow Road very early. But we didn’t have a chance to do pictures of the stadium before the game. Then two hours after we are still wiring pictures.
We left our cases chained to a radiator back at the old hotel, so we had to go back there, using an uber driver with the only method of communication Google translate in our best Russian.
We threw the keys back in reception, got him to stop off at McDonalds and it was probably 2:30am before we got to bed. That is par for the course.
Basically we are eating in the press zones but it is not a patch on the Carrow Road media food! Plus I had a rude shock when I realised after three beers in the press zone it was non alcoholic.
But don’t start feeling sorry for us. Well, apart from my poor foot.