Photographers' Blog

Super Mario

By Kai Pfaffenbach

There were other big names supposed to be the super stars of this Euro 2012 – Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo, Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holland’s Robin van Persie or France’s Franck Ribery – they have all flown home by now and before the final between Spain and Italy there is only one guy left who will be recognized as the tournament’s big star: Mario Balotelli from Italy.

What a story. Adopted from African parents when he was three, brought up by Italian foster parents and now one of the most recognized strikers playing for England’s champions Manchester City and the man who brought Italy into the final with his two striking goals against an agonized German squad in the semi-final.

Covering all major soccer tournaments and big finals for the last 15 years I can’t remember one player who fascinates the media and fans like him. And it’s not only about the way he plays. The number of his nicknames seems endless. Super-Mario, after the popular video-game star, Balla-Balla Balotelli, as he is well known for his jokes with team mates or Mad Mario, as he gets quite furious on the pitch (he faced four red cards during the last Premier League) season.

After the semi-final he added another one himself: the postman! A journalist asked why he did not celebrate after his second goal against the Germans. He simply answered that it is his job to score goals and the postman delivering the daily mail does not celebrate at each end every letter box. Seconds of silence and then a big laugh of the media. But as much as they love him, they are also in some kind of conflict with him all the time. One Italian sport paper showed him in a cartoon as King Kong shaking Big Ben when Italy played England in their quarter finals – a lot other countries considered this as racism. The postman took it with a smile and delivered.

For a photographer he is a perfect subject to follow. He shows emotions, argues and plays with great engagement. When he scored his first goal of the semi-final against “my” German team he started his celebration and ran past our captain Phillip Lahm, making him look like a little school boy. We have this proverb saying: “Good boys go to heaven – bad boys make it everywhere” – in this case into the final….

Faces of football

By Kacper Pempel

Three weeks of the Euro 2012 adventure are already behind us. Three weeks of hard work, meeting thousands of people, driving thousands of miles and shooting thousands of pictures.

As a photographer based in Poland, I was assigned to cover not only matches but also news stories in Polish cities like Wroclaw, Poznan and Gdansk. So I had a chance to meet people from many different parts of Europe who made the journey here for the soccer fiesta. They were genuine football lovers and real soccer fans.

Fans with their faces painted in nationla colours

The Irish fans made the most remarkable impression. The party they threw for all three of their games was incredible and they showed they know how to have fun even when their team is losing. They transformed the Old Market in Poznan into a “green island”, singing and cheering their national team before and after matches and through the night. After a couple of hours sleep they would be back again to kick off the next day’s festivities.

On the road at Euro 2012

By Kai Pfaffenbach

As a news photographer working for Reuters in Germany it is quite normal to spend some time in your car. It is not unusual to drive between 3000-5000km per month. So I expected nothing different when coming to Poland for the Euro 2012 covering the soccer matches in Warsaw and Gdansk. During our tournament planning we agreed on traveling in a big van with our team of three photographers and one technician. That seemed a lot easier than spending more time getting all the equipment to an airport than actually flying.

Four times we had to hit the road towards Gdansk and back to Warsaw. About 360km one way shouldn’t last longer than 3 to 4 hours. “It’s about the ride from Frankfurt to Munich to cover some soccer at Allianz Arena. Entering the highway in Frankfurt and three hours later you take the exit in front of the stadium”, I thought to myself. As a matter of fact our trips were different and we experienced quite a few new things on our journey – everything in an absolutely positive way. Even though there’s not much of a highway to begin with, we had a lot to see. In retrospect we divided the trip in three parts.

Part 1: the strawberry and cherry alley – not one or two people were offering self-harvested fruits here, but dozens. They displayed the freshly picked fruits on the hood of their cars, sitting next to it under a sunshade waiting for customers. Of course we took the opportunity, made a good deal and used the strawberries for a refreshing milkshake after coming back. Some refreshment was needed as the drive on the country road is somewhat challenging as well. Some Polish drivers are very “creative” when using the space of only two lanes. It is nothing special if you face three cars driving towards you next to each other. Thank god that didn’t lead directly into the next part of our journey….

Part 2: the graveyard alley – maybe that sounds a bit strange but it was very striking how many graveyards we could see left and right from the streets. The special thing was the size of those graveyards. Using the country road for almost 120km we drove through villages having just two rows of houses left and right from the street but a graveyard double the size of the village. Talking about that during our first trips we decided to look around at two or three of them on our last trip back home from Gdansk.

A pitch-side soaking

By Yves Herman

Picture five photographers and one technician traveling together between the cities of Kharkiv and Donetsk in Ukraine, at an average of 38 degrees C (100 degrees Fahrenheit) with air humidity of more than 50%. Eastern Ukraine is definitely not a fresh or cool place to stay during this EURO 2012 soccer championships. Nevertheless, it is our job to be there and it is a pure pleasure to be sitting alongside the pitch and taking photos of Europe’s best soccer teams. On that journey a cooling rain would have been most appreciated.

Alessandro from Italy, Felix from Spain, Michael from Switzerland, Vasily from Belarus, our technician Rod from Washington DC and myself, based in Belgium, hit the road early on June 15 on our way to Donetsk. An eagerly anticipated match between Ukraine and France was to take place that day at the famous Donbass Arena in front of more than 40,000 fans.

After a more than five hour tough drive, we arrived at the venue at around 1500 and temperatures had crept up even further. We could feel how wet the atmosphere was, even if the sky was a deep blue and cloud free.

Soccer and History

By Tony Gentile

It’s not the first time I have covered an international sport event and a soccer tournament. I was in Germany for the FIFA world cup in 2006, in Austria and Switzerland for Euro 2008 and now I’m covering Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Every time, I’ve followed Italy’s soccer team. It’s a interesting job but sometimes it can be repetitive. You spend about one month with the same people, your photo and text colleagues and the players. Everyday you cover a training session and news conference and travel around the country to cover the matches. C onstantly you have to try to find a different picture as well.
But sometimes something different turns up, in Poland we left soccer briefly and turned to history.

Like other national soccer teams, Italy also visited the Auschwitz former Nazi death camp in Oswiecim.

For me it was not the first time in Auschwitz, I had been there in 2000 to do a short movie with some students and I remember it as a shocking experience. Hundreds of people walking in the camp transform the area into a touristic place, but only when you concentrate your ear on what the guide says and see, for example, the shoes of thousands of babies killed by the SS a shiver runs down your spine, you start to feel part of the history, especially if the guide is a survivor of the Holocaust.

It’s been a hard day’s night… and I’ve been working like a ‘tog

By Darren Staples

You off again?” people say. “Ukraine? The Euros? You’ve got the best job in the world haven’t you?”

So here I am, the man with ‘the best job in the world’, about to have a needle stuck in my backside by one half of the Mario brothers.

It wasn’t meant to be like this.

As a day, it started like many others; up at 5am to catch my fourth of eleven flights during this tournament, bleary-eyed and grey I helped fellow photographers Eddie Keogh, Alexander Demianchuk and technician Magnus Storm load the taxi to the roof with our equipment.

Shooting practice

By Petr Josek

Yeah, yeah, yeah 4-1 loss for the Czechs against Russia in Wroclaw. The Russian fans left the city for Warsaw after that and ended up fighting Polish supporters. Wroclaw is calm and quiet. Here the fans like each other and the city center is calm and full of friendly faces. The spotlight moves on, but there is still work to be done.


After the next round the Czechs became a decisive opponent for Poland in advancing from Group A. Its a championship and the teams need to keep sharp, away from the headlines, and for photographers there are images to be made that tell the story. Eyes on the prize.

As in previous EURO competitions I’ve been assigned to cover the team, and shooting training is a hell of a lot of work, even when everyone else is looking elsewhere. Let’s see what they look like even when there is “No Coverage” in the picture planner.

A different approach to Euro 2012

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.

A game of two other halves

By Eddie Keogh

As part of our photographic coverage of Euro 2012, Darren Staples and myself from England and Michael Dalder from Germany are covering all the group games in Kiev and Lviv in Ukraine. Our first game was between Germany and Portugal last Saturday in Lviv and proved to be a very interesting day.

Saturday is a busy day to get married in Ukraine and as the city was also packed with fans it was only time before both parties would meet.

Tina Lemboke and her friends from Rostock in Germany were the first to grab a souvenir photo with a wedding couple. The couple were more than happy as it was a good opportunity also for them to get an unusual wedding picture. Tina said’ “They are so friendly here, everyone has been so welcoming.” That proved to be very true as a member of the wedding party opened the boot of his car and presented Tina with a bottle of vodka.

As they left another group of German fans spotted the wedding couple. Five students from Ulm in southern Germany, who had travelled for 24 hours by train to get here. Students being students, a normal picture wasn’t good enough. To everyone’s surprise Paul Schlenker wrapped his German flag around the wedding couple and there was another picture sure to be a hit on Facebook. These fans had a marathon schedule ahead of them as Markus Gamm pointed out. “We have no accommodation tonight and a 25 hour bus ride back to Germany. If we win tonight, we will party all night and sleep on the bus. Hopefully the full 25 hours. ”

Finding Funtik

By Will Webster

Who could have foreseen what the late Paul the Octopus started when he began picking the winning teams at the 2010 World Cup? Presumably he could have, he was clairvoyant. But he may have struggled to predict the psychic circus that has appeared in the last week before the opening of the EURO2012 championship:  Fred the ferret, an elephant called Chitta and Kiev’s very own Funtik the pig.

Animals predicting the outcomes of sporting events are all part of various big competitions now, Sonny Wool the sheep had a good run during the rugby world cup in 2011, so it’s easy to take it all with a pinch of salt (we’ll talk about local eating habits later.) However, using animals to predict the future goes back to biblical times, doves landing on the arc gave Noah a hint of better times.
Sitting in Moscow, my first view of Funtik was Gleb’s picture of a rabid and vaguely scary looking beast. Fred the Ferret from Kharkiv has a much more furry and cheeky appeal, so why did Kiev go for a pig? 

I talked to Reuters photographer in Kiev Anatolii Stepanov who has spent the last couple of days getting to know Funtik.