By Kai Pfaffenbach
Being a Reuters photographer means you travel a lot. War zones, disasters or political visits are on your list. By far the most exiting events – for me – are still the big sports events. 2012 offers a nice variety and the Euro 2012 soccer tournament will be an excellent warm up for the Olympic games to follow shortly in London.
Although I’ve followed the German team in previous tournaments this time it’s a different approach for me to cover the tournament. With my colleagues Pascal Lauener from Switzerland, Austria’s chief photographer Leo Foeger and our technician Gilles de Queiros from France I’m covering the games in Warsaw and Gdansk. With the complicated history of Poland’s and Germany’s relationship in mind I started this trip with different expectations and was wondering if our Polish hosts had any prejudices against Germans. Let’s not forget the first shots of World War II were fired at Gdansk (then Danzig) in September, 1939.
After five days of work in both cities my first resume is very clear: it is a great pleasure to be here! Beside some serious security officers at the Gdansk stadium (they decided to trade their smile in for the uniform) all the people we met were incredibly nice, friendly and gave us a very warm welcome. Volunteers in the stadium, young soccer fans in and around the stadiums or the sales people at the local supermarket seem to like especially the German soccer team. Obviously it helps that two of Germany’s best players are born in Poland. Lukas Podolski and Miroslav “Mirek” Klose are as popular as Poland’s own soccer heroes Kuba Blasczikowski and Robert Lewandowski who play for German soccer champion Borussia Dortmund. It especially helps when they train in tops saying “I like it!” in Polish.
After Poland’s 1-1 draw jn the opening game against Greece they have to play a strong team from Russia who defeated Czech Republic unexpectedly by 4-1! The relationship between Poland and Russia doesn’t seem to be the best at the moment. The violent attacks by Russian hooligans against stewards in the stadium during their first game didn’t really help to garner sympathy.
As photographers we have to prepare for this game in a completely different way to previous matches. So, we will cover the day with two teams. One team inside the stadium looking after the match and a team outside, looking at the fan zones and checking the situation around the arena.