Back To The Football Two

Following on from my previous post featuring the kids of Pattaya participating in a major football tournament, here is the prequel to that event.

The men’s competition took place the day before on the Saturday. Again there was an abundance of skill on show from both Thai and farang players.

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Firstly though, I must pay tribute to a lady known only as Colette, who literally could have saved me from a hospital visit. With not a cloud in the sky and temperatures hitting 32 degrees, I found myself feeling ill as the bright sunshine and heat took its toll on me.

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I was burning, especially my face and head. I felt nauseous and if the truth be told, I was ready for home after only two hours of photography.

Then this very kind lady introduced herself. When she realised I was struggling, she brought me chocolate milk, water, rice and eggs and a beer with the statement “one of these will cure you – I am not sure which one but one will do the trick.” She was right. After eating and drinking the mixture of consumables, I was feeling great. She then presented me with a hat to stop the sun doing further damage.

Thank you Colette.

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So back to the football. It still baffles me why the standard of football in Thailand is so poor at international level, when there is clearly an abundance of talent coming through. The skills from the kids on the Sunday was exceptional and many of the younger players in the adult competition were very capable, albeit on a seven-a-side basis.

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Take my first image for example. The chap in the red, left the two opposition players for dead, with skill and pace, before approaching the keeper and sliding the ball into the net from a tight angle, despite the best efforts of the keeper.

The next photo is of a young goalkeeper, who is small in stature but incredibly graceful and talented, and as you can see, very adept in front of the camera.

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I have taken photos of him and a few others at a beach football competition in Jomtien a few months back.

I selected the next one because the player is high in the air as he attempts to block a long pass from the player in white. He failed but the image was captured in a series of three and I like this one.

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Next up is another skillful lad, who easily passes two players, leaving one on the floor. He successfully crossed the ball into the danger area but a goal was not forthcoming on this occasion.

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In case you are wondering why so many teams are wearing white shirts with “MoneyGram” on them, this is because the sponsor provided strips for one of the teams in every match.

I must also add that every thirty minutes or so, I was treated to cold water, coke zero or beer by the organisers. I guess they had concerns that the old man may keel over in the heat ūüôā

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Now there is often a moment of hilarity at these events and this one was no exception, unless you are the poor lad lying on his back holding his testicles. The chap took a sore one from an opponent and was on the ground in agony. He was not afraid to let people know exactly where the pain was emanating from either.

“Oh my bollocks” was just one of the choice phrases he let rip with. I also cleaned that comment up somewhat ūüôā

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Of course acting with the utmost professionalism, I wandered over and took a few images of this crestfallen moment in his football career. I am happy to say, he was soon on his feet, resting against a wall.

Amazingly, no one offered to massage the area to speed up the healing process.

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The lad taking the ball on his chest is one I particularly like. Especially when followed up with the subsequent image, which is taken a split second after the first. This time he resembles a ballerina as the ball rose upwards after connecting with his chest. He did however, bring the orb under full control seconds later.

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How about a “sausage roll”, the diet of champions? Actually, the guy had been injured and was unable to continue, so like many others, he sampled some of the excellent food on offer at the event.

Not only was there Thai food, there was an excellent stall selling spaghetti, chicken and pork. Someone said there was a burger van but I failed to locate it.

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The one of the chap in the Italian strip (at least I think that is what it is) appeals to me, as it represents a standard football image, with a player running and controlling ball. His poise is ideal for the shot.

Back to the goalkeeper mentioned earlier. This time he has pulled off a stunning save from a shot taken from a player out of picture on the right. Top class goalkeeping.

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Yellow versus white as the player donning the yellow strip, attempts to pass beyond his adversary. I can’t recall if the tackle coming in was a success or not.

As the competition got into the final rounds, the guys became increasingly jubilant when they scored a goal. If I recall, the chap with his arms outstretched, scored a hat-trick during this match and is clearly delighted that his team are heading into the next round.

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The image of the guy in the yellow shirt, depicts finesse, fitness and strength from a player who was rarely dispossessed when he had the ball at his feet.

Concentration on players faces, often results in good photos. The one above, is part of a series of five, where the duo are fighting for possession of the ball.

And last but not least is one that shows why the photographer should, whenever possible, get down low when capturing sports. If you observe professionals at football matches, they are often seated behind the goal. This is usually part of the ruling bodies restrictions on photographers but it also provides the best angle to take the photos.

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Getting down to eye-level is great but sitting on the ground adds another dimension to your photography, typically at football events.

Finally, I would like to thank the organisers, sponsors and participants who permitted me access to the tournament. It has been a couple of years since I last took photos at football and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I only wish I had my other Nikon D610 in Thailand, so the images could have been a little bit sharper.

If anyone in Scotland is heading this way, maybe you could bring it to me:)

 

 

 

 

 

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Back At The Football

Firstly, before I commence this post – let me explain why the logo has changed and the reasoning behind it. When I began SK Photography around seven or eight years ago, there was only one person working under than name in the UK and one other, I discovered later, in the USA. Now there are a number of people using the name and it was becoming difficult for people to locate me on Facebook.

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So after months of deliberation, I opted to re-brand and change the logo to suit. I considered a number of names but finally chose ThaiSken, simply because I now live in the Kingdom of Thailand and Sken was a name that was used to identify me at BT when there were two people called Steve and we both had the same initials. So he became Skin and I became Sken.

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So – back to my day out with the camera. Well it was actually two days out. Saturday was men’s football in a tournament style. Group stages in the morning and knock out stage in the afternoon, leading to the final around 17:30. The photos for that are not ready yet.

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The second day, which was on the Sunday, was under 10s, following the same format.

I used to work in the field of football photography back in Scotland, firstly in non-league football, then youths and finally women’s football. However, It has been a couple of years since I attempted to capture fast moving subjects, such as kids chasing a ball.

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The first thing I noticed was the standard of play and skill on display and not only from the boys, for there was an odd girl playing too, and they were in a similar class.

I worked with kids this age in Scotland and in my opinion, the standard here at this age group, is higher. What happens when they get to adulthood I do not know, for the Thai national team is pretty poor, judging by their results over the last couple of years. But if these kids can produce the quality on display on Sunday, then nation has a lot to look forward to in the world of football.

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The top image is of one of the girls, who played in the early stages of the tournament. She was taller than most of the boys in her team and this could be why she took most of the throw ins.

The next two I selected because I like the facial expressions of the kids. One chasing the ball, determined to catch the attacker and the other fighting hard to retain possession.

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The one with the youngster in the light blue shirt, shows him running with the ball as he scans the park, looking to make a pass.

The kids here are not greedy when the have possession of the ball. They happily look for players who are in superior positions. Someone in space or in a better location to shoot, will get the ball, generally speaking anyway.

As a former goalkeeper, I love the image of the boy bravely diving at the feet of the attacking player. He tucks his head in to avoid injury and safely collects the ball.

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Again, the lad taking the throw in, shows tremendous focus. His face is full of intense thought as he aims the throw in towards a team mate. And of course the hair style adds to the image.

Back with the goalkeepers. This was the third of six images, that captured the kid with the gloves making a tremendous save. He dives to his right, pushing the ball away from the goal and onto the post. One of the defenders then cleared the danger.

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Most of the goalkeepers were of a high standard too.

The chap above displays great poise and elegance as he steps up to take a free kick. Again the majority of the boys and girls, were very adept when striking the ball.

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Most passes found their team mates and those who shot at goal either rattled the frame of the goals, brought out a save from the keeper, were blocked by defenders or indeed, scored! As in all games, some were off target.

The victory celebrations are featured above. The team in blue had lead by a solitary goal in the final but lost a late goal, which took the game into a “golden goal” situation. Within two minutes, the lad being held aloft, drove at the opposing keeper from the right of the box, before firing in the winner.

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His elation had to be seen to be believed. I captured the goal in a series of around eight photos, including his run, shot, two of the ball passing the keeper and bulging the net and the celebrations. I elected to use this one, simply because the others were posted earlier on Facebook.

The last one is by far my favourite. It shows a young girl playing with friends on a spare pitch. She is barefoot and could strike a ball harder and more accurate than most of us can do wearing trainers.

But what makes this photo for me, is the joy on the children’s faces as they chase after the lass, with not a hope in hell of catching her.

A fantastic day, eight hours each day, sweltered in 32 degrees, burnt to a crisp, aching back and for the most part, wishing the day was over. But I would happily do it all again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helmut & Friends At Hemmingways

I have visited Hemmingways a few times for food but I have never ventured into the bar/restaurant on a Thursday. This is when they have their live music nights, which features a band known as Helmut and Friends.

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Manager Mark, had previously invited me to come along on a Thursday evening but time had always been an issue for me. However, when assisting with a promotional project for a good friend, who just happened to want to see the group, it was a sealed deal.

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But there was something else to factor into the equation.

Pranom’s mother was visiting from Roi Et and I wanted to take her to a pleasant eating establishment, where I knew the food would be of an exceptional standard and the surroundings would match the quality of the cuisine.

So with these two details taken into consideration, it had to be Hemmingways.

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As always we were greeted by one of their friendly staff as we entered the bar. A smile and a warm welcome are not unusual in Thailand but the employees here are top drawer.

The band had set up but were 30 minutes away from commencing their show. So we took the opportunity to order our food and a drink.

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I have to confess that the staff at Hemmingways are exceptional, as mentioned above.

They look after you from the minute you walk in the door. They all speak very good English, which is a huge bonus, even though I was with two Thai ladies.

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The food as always was tasty and well presented with large portions. The ladies enjoyed a Thai offering from the extensive menu and I went for a burger that was put together following  my instructions.

I was armed with my camera, for I had agreed with the bar that I would take a few images for the venue and the band.

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Having never heard Helmut and Friends play previously, I was keen to perceive what they had to offer. I had listened to mixed reviews but 90% of the people I spoke to, rated them very highly.

They would not disappoint.

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I had a twenty minute chat with Helmut before they commenced playing and discovered that they often performed as a five-piece outfit, fronted by Filipino singer Jovy Del Rosario, who by all accounts is a fantastic vocalist.

Alas, on Thursday, there were playing as a four-piece band and one wondered if it was going to be a second rate show. But they were far from that!

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They began with a number of slow songs, mainly, I would imagine, because people were still enjoying Hemmingways’ cuisine. Songs such as “My Girl” provided light entertainment, whilst the diners enjoyed their food.

The band sprung to life during their second set of the evening with an absolutely brilliant version of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”, done in their own impeccable style. The vocals on the song from Jayson Camilo were astonishing.

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They continued with well known hits such as “Africa” and “Down Under” and even had the audacity to cover Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summer Time”, which again was flawless.

During many of their songs, the band can be observed sharing jokes and generally having a great time, which often had the audience laughing along with them.

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Helmut is a huge Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits fan and let us see just how good a guitarist he is with a variety of amazing solos.

Anyone who can replicate, Knopfler on “Sultans of Swing” has to be a genius on a guitar and the song suited his vocals to a T, to quote an old idiom.

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This was jaw dropping stuff from Helmut and appreciated by those in the bar.

Then to show us their true versatility, they sang an uptempo version of Dean Martin’s “Volare” and and worked a treat. Vocals being from Jayson once more.

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In their third set they did many rock ‘n’ roll songs from the likes of Chuck Berry before displaying their versatility with Stevie Wonder classics and “Get Down On It” from the disco era. The bass playing on the Kool and the Gang hit from Jeckson Echavez was exceptional.

Drummer Marvin Javier, provided the beat and held the band together as they played hit after hit, from almost every genre of music you can imagine. The keyboard skills from Jayson and lead guitar solos from Helmut, truly are world class.

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Add into the equation, the amount of fun the band have as they play for you, and you really do have a fantastic ensemble for parties, night clubs or any other event you care to name.

Hemmingways have secured Helmut and Friends every Thursday from 20:00 and I would highly recommend, popping along to see them play. The venue is a high class establishment, spacious, air conditioned, free Wi-Fi and offers a huge selection of draught beers, wines and spirits.

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And in between the group’s sets, you can enjoy watching sport on one of their many televisions, strategically placed around the venue. They even have a beer garden, should you care to sit outside.

I would like to give a mention to the staff who work at Hemmingways. Rarely will you meet a nicer group of people, who treat their customers with the utmost respect.

From the minute you enter the premises, to the moment you leave, the crew at Hemmingways ensure you want for nothing.

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If you haven’t been there – it is well worth making the effort, whether it is for live music, excellent food or to view a sporting event on TV, Hemmingways is deserved of a visit.

Helmut and Friends were: Helmut Schachtner on vocals and guitar from Germany, Jayson Camilo, keyboard and vocals, Marvin Javier on Drums, Jeckson Echavez on bass,  all from the Philippines.

Missing was Jovy Del Roasario, whom I will make a point of going to see very soon. When someone tells you that “she will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up”, you have to take notice.

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By the way, the Hemmingways staff are a fun loving bunch too, happy to get involved with the photography.

Thanks to the band and to the management and staff. See you all soon I hope.

 

 

 

 

Looking Back On The Things I Did

I have been feeling a bit nostalgic today so I thought I would write something around the pictures I have taken over the years.

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I began my life in photography way back in the days of film with a Praktica camera but alas I have no images from those days. They were tough on the old wallet, as mistakes cost you dearly with processing costs.

I progressed to digital photography with a Sony Mavica around 1998. The camera was shockingly bad, using the old 3.5″ floppy discs to store images on. From there I moved to a Kodak that was a huge improvement as far as image quality¬†was concerned.

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By now I was beginning to enjoy my photography, so I purchased a Panasonic Lumix G1 with a 200mm zoom lens. It used the Micro Four Thirds system, was light and easy to use.

I was asked to do some pictures at football matches shortly after buying the Lumix. The camera was ideal for the task, until the light was poor or it was raining, which was frequent in Scotland. So a new camera was acquired in the form of a Nikon D90, which was soon replaced by the excellent D7000. I used the latter for two years before progressing to a full frame Nikon D600, D610 and finally, at the time of writing a D750. I still own a D610 but it is in Scotland awaiting shipment to Thailand.

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The first image on this post was taken with my Nikon D90 with an 18-200mm zoom lens. I was thrilled with it at the time, despite still learning how to use the camera.

I had worked on various websites as a photographer before being asked to work for the Scottish Womens Football Association. The next image was taken at Aberdeen when the Scottish ladies played host to Cameroon, on a wet and cold, wintry day. There was as much excitement in the large crowd as there was on the field of play.

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Over a period of six years, I covered hundreds, if not thousands of matches for men, women and children’s games¬†before I finally had the opportunity to go into a studio with models.

My inaugural shoot was in Glasgow with brother and sister Tunde and Eno and despite having no knowledge of studio lighting and no assistance from the studio owner, I managed to obtain a number of decent photos. The couple can be seen in photo three.

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I was hooked. I had found an area of photography that I simply had to explore more. I loved working in a studio environment and the truth be told, it is probably the only reason I would consider returning home. I miss taking models into one of the many studios I used but in Thailand, I have yet to discover a setup that compares with what I am accustomed to.

Actually I have yet to find a studio for hire!

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I continued working at football matches but every free moment I had, I would find myself arranging studio shoots with a variety of models, covering diverse themes from Marilyn Monroe to rock chicks or glamour shoots to horror. I would point my camera at anything that I found interesting or different.

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Then one day, I was invited to a music event. A concert featuring numerous bands. Nervously I arrived at the venue, not knowing if I could capture the night’s entertainment or if it would be a complete disaster. Thankfully it proved to be another stepping stone for me, for the night was a success.

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Again, I was addicted to this new form of camera work. I did gig after gig, touring the UK, working at prestigious venues such as the O2 concert halls around England and Scotland. I also photographed an all girl punk band in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, famous for hosting “Strictly Come Dancing” these days.

Despite the travelling time, spending many nights in hotels, I was in my element.

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Not only was I getting “Access All Areas” passes to gigs but I was getting up close and personal with the bands. I was “on stage” with the groups, capturing the drummers at close range.

I met the odd famous person and many new friends, a number of which I am still in touch with today.

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Not only did I have the opportunity to work with some wonderful acts, I also took them into studios or on location, so I guess I must have been doing something right.

There were also downsides to working with music acts. Many thought that cameras grew on trees or Nikon just presented you with £20,000 worth of equipment for free. To say they were reluctant to put their hands in their pockets would be an understatement. Some people still believe that photographers should work for free.

Alas this is not the case. If you have a burst pipe, you expect to pay the plumber – right? The acts get paid, and so should the photographer.

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There were a lot of people who understand that your equipment costs money and has to be kept up to date and were happy to pay for my services.

So where I am now? Well I am currently living in Thailand and loving life but not working with the camera at least once or twice per week, irritates me.

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I have of course been out and taken many images in my time here but my objective is to return to some form of full time employment within the world of photography. It may not be here in Thailand but it needs to happen, for I have a yearning deep inside me to take photos.

Maybe I will find the cash to invest in a Nikon D800 and D5000, my dream cameras.

One day!

 

 

 

 

Pattaya Beach Football

I was invited to attend and photograph the 12th Pattaya Beach Football Cup at Jomtien Beach in Pattaya, Thailand. If I am perfectly honest, it turned out to be something totally different from what I was expecting.

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I wrongly assumed that it would be a bunch of holiday makers, who were unfit, hungover, overweight and didn’t know one end of a football pitch from the other.

How wrong could I be?

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The real scenario was that many of the players were professional footballers and were here to win this cup. The mentality was serious.

The stamina and fitness was genuinely of a very high standard.

The skill levels on show were superlative. Many of the players were flown in especially for this tournament.

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Twelve nations were represented including the host nation Thailand along with Cameroon, Norway, Scotland, England, Germany, Russia, France, Italy, Finland, Ireland and my assigned country Holland.

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There was also a ladies competition, which pleased me, for as many of you will know, I used to work closely with women’s football in Scotland for over three years, so when I was made aware of the female game, I didn’t need much persuasion to give them some publicity.

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The opening ceremony was held, presented by the officials, sponsors and local dignitaries.

The teams entered the arena carrying their national flags. Many of the players at this point had not arrived but the ceremony took place regardless and was a success.

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Following the speeches and photographs, the competition got underway.

The tournament was split into two groups of six ,with the top two in each group progressing to the semi-finals.

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The first match I observed was between England and Germany, which culminated in great disappointment for me. I expected the German team to be exceptionally good but alas, the English played them off the park or in this case the sand.

It goes without saying that I am a lover of German football.

England dominated before running out easy winners in the end. Maybe next year the German team will offer a greater challenge.

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Still I was there to take photos and make videos, so I got on with the task.

Holland began with a win over Ireland. A respectable and close game of football but the Dutch were simply too strong for the Irish, who incidentally had a Scotsman from Peterhead in the squad.

I had a good old chinwag with the lad before the match.

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Day two and beyond saw the team in orange face other opposition in the form of France, Finland, and Russia. The Russians were, like Holland, well supported. The atmosphere was electric as Russia took a two goal lead. At this point I had the Russians down as clear favourites to win this match.

Not for the first time over the course of the tournament, I was to be proven wrong.

The Dutch came back to win the match scoring four times in the process. Relief all round!

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They then faced the team that had won the tournament for the previous six years – Norway.

Like all but one of their previous matches, Holland came back from a 2-0 deficit to win and earned their place in the semi-final against Thailand.

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Once again my adopted nation were slow out of the traps before overcoming the host nation.

I actually enjoyed watching Thailand play. They were well prepared, displayed exceptional adeptness with a ball and had a very athletic goalkeeper, whose agility was remarkable.

In the final they met the current champions Norway once more, who had disposed of Cameroon in a rather heated affair.

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So it was Holland v Norway in a repeat of last year’s finale, which of course the Norwegians won.

Could Holland defeat them twice in one week? Hundreds of people turned up hours in advance to discover who the victors would be.

Once more the Dutch fell behind early on and I wondered if this was a step too far. I mean how many times can one side come back from going behind to claim victory?

The Norwegians looked strong and once they took the lead, they settled, playing some good football. Their hearts were firmly set on winning that seventh title in a row.

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However team orange were not going to lie down and accept defeat without the usual fightback. And fightback they certainly did.

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Chances were missed at both ends before Holland finally equalised. Once they found the net, they began to dominate and control the game, eventually winning by a scoreline of four goals to one. A just result in my opinion. They had controlled the match with the majority of the play and took their chances in front of goal.

Norway desperately tried to come back. Even in the last minute and three goals behind, they drove forward in search of a goal. However it was not to be. Not this year.

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Over the piece Holland deserved their medals and cup for they fought hard, had a never say die attitude and were completely professional from the outset.

The competition’s top scorer, a chap called Ali, hit the net 20 times for Holland. An impressive achievement.

The final match was chaotic for photographers. The presentation was a frenzied affair as Camera men and women fought for space with people standing with mobile phones or small cameras.

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As a result, the images I obtained of the Dutch team receiving their trophies and medals were poor and I feel I let the guys down, through no fault of my own.

In the ladies competition, I was asked to do some photos for Planet Football, a local football academy in Pattaya.

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Now this side had the smallest squad of all the teams who had entered but their five or six girls put everything into their play and went on to win the trophy with relative ease.

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The ladies provided some wonderful entertainment, as these games were played in a more light hearted spirit but they engaged the crowd, who were engrossed in their matches as much as they were with the men’s.

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Now you cannot have a successful football competition without players but you also require supporters.

The organisers built three stands to accommodate the fans but this was not sufficient, such was the demand to watch this tournament.

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People were climbing scaffolding, which supported the floodlights. They stood behind the advertising boards, sat in the sand behind the goals or were squashed into a corner with minimalistic views.

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This did not deter them however as they create a deafening blare of chants and songs. Once again it was orange clad Dutch who stole the show but other nations got behind their team, even if it was in lesser numbers. Half a dozen Finnish ladies throats must have been sore from encouraging their side.

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The Russians were out in force to watch their countrymen too and of course the Thai’s, typically the ladies, could be heard screaming at any opportunity that their boys had to¬†score.

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Once again many thanks to Colin, the Dutch Manager for inviting me along and a congratulations to the organisers, who ensured the competition ran like clockwork.

My only criticism, if you could call it that – would be to increase the size of the venue to seat more people. Is that really a condemnation though? Of course not.

 

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This is a very popular event but I know people were leaving due to lack of seating. Success breeds success and my personal feeling is that another hundred seats would not go amiss. The event has the capability of becoming even more prosperous, so what not endorse and encourage this!

I would also have a dedicated press area, especially at the presentation. Fighting for space with a proud granny or wife is not fun lol.

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Following the presentation of the cups (and their were many), the Dutch team and countless¬†supporters walked the short distance to The Tulip House, which was one of the team’s sponsors. The bar provided entertainment for the ensuing party that was quite simply – amazing.

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With 90% of the people present being from Holland, it was a colourful, joyous event, with singing and dancing throughout the evening. These people know how to party and party they did!

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Sadly, having been on my feet for five hours, whilst carrying a heavy bag full of camera equipment, I was ready for my bed and I departed the scene of the celebrations earlier than I would have preferred. From a photographer’s point of view, the festivities would have provided some excellent shots. Having said that, I did get a few while I was there.

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I would like to end with what turned out to be a very important image for me. It was taken on the spur of the moment when I noticed a very thirsty young female player, drinking from a bottle of water but the majority of the water was not reaching her mouth. It appeared that she did not care either due to intense heat and thirst she was suffering from.

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I used the image to promote my Facebook Page and at the time of writing, it has been viewed by almost 17,000 people, liked by nearly 3000 people and attracted 1000 plus page likes in less than six days.

I have no idea who the girl is but I must offer my sincerest gratitude for making a wonderful image for me.

You can see the image above. I love it and I hope you do too.

I have just found out that the top scorer Ali, mentioned above, has been interviewed by a Dutch newspaper and they have asked permission to use some images. Many thanks to both the newspaper and Ali.

Also to all the people I met who encouraged and thanked me for the photos – I offer my sincerest gratitude.

Football Days

My first venture into photography of any note was football in my homeland of Scotland. I was on the committee of Glenafton Athletic, my home town Junior/Non-League side, when I struck up an idea to use Twitter to collect all scores from around the country’s Junior matches and display them on a website. With the help of Martin Young, The Juniors.info website was born.

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To give the website some credibility and content, it required photos, match reports, interviews and much more. This was where my love of photography truly began.

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I did the lot. It was difficult to find assistance with match reports for instance but over a period of three years, the site grew in stature and attracted fans from every team from the Scottish Junior Football Association.

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I travelled the country covering matches in all weather conditions and it has to be said, I met some wonderful people, who gave up their free time to run their favourite club via their respective committees. People would sell raffle tickets, programmes or collect rubbish from the terraces. No job was too big or too small for these hardworking people.

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My highlights from the men’s game has to be working at three Scottish Junior Cup Finals, covering Dalry Thistle’s giant killing missions and St. Rochs’ visit to the mighty Auchinleck Talbot in the Scottish Cup, a game that I had covered by video by a good footballing friend Martin McKenna. His video of St. Rochs’ manager Davie Greig at half-time is legendary.

I was even featured on a couple of local radio stations in Paisley and Edinburgh.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my time working on the site and promoting the Junior game but despite all my efforts, I failed to get the backing of the governing body. Yes they loved what I was doing for the game but refused to commit to actually permitting me to use the official brand in anyway.

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So when an offer from the Scottish Womens Football Association was put to me, I duly accepted, despite not being convinced I could build a following but as the SWFA were paying expense and backing my efforts, it was worth a try.

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Another issue that concerned me at the time, was I did not believe the standard of the women’s game was high enough to justify my time and effort but I am delighted to say I was wrong.

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I handed the running of The Juniors over to Martin Young, who has done a fine job by all accounts in maintaining support and adding to its success. I commenced work on a new site called SWFITBA.

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This one was hard work initially, in that getting clubs on board was not an easy task. I began with a few selected clubs such as Hamilton, Troon, Glasgow City and Hearts and built it from there. Then I made a decision to support the lower leagues and give them coverage with match reports and photos and that’s when the site took off.

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Every club within the association suddenly wanted me to attend their games. SWFITBA was a huge success but unfortunately had people in power who thought they were bigger than the game and offered little in support for what I was doing. Sadly they were committed only to a select few clubs and not interested in the emerging clubs from around Scotland.

To this day this brings great sadness to me, for it was the lower league bread and butter clubs who suffered when SWFITBA ceased production.

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Eventually I decided enough was enough. However I am proud of what I achieved for the women’s game and despite uproar from the lower leagues when I departed the scene, it was impossible for me to continue without the 100% backing of the governing body.

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I am humbled that I was permitted to work at European Champion’s League matches and Scotland internationals, these were the icing on the cake. But I cannot emphasise enough that my love was covering the teams outwith the top three or four.

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But the best memories came from being invited to attend the home side’s hospitality events following a match. Again, almost all the lower league teams invited me along, where I could meet and interview players, enjoy some free food and beverages and have a good old chinwag with new found friends.

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Following a break from football and venturing into studio work with a variety of models and styles, I was asked to help out at Kilmarnock Ladies.

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“What do you want me to do?” was the first question I asked.

“Oh simply help us promote our Facebook, Twitter and Web Pages, so that we can attract new players” I was told.

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I liked the Chairman and his ideas for the future and he listened to what I had to say, so I signed up to what was meant to be a few weeks of promotional work.

But….. I was hooked again. I began travelling to their games, doing match reports, photography, interviews, player profiles and more or less anything that was requested from me.

I created  and maintained the Website and Twitter account so that the world knew about Kilmarnock Ladies FC.

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I even coached the goalkeepers for a couple of months until they found a trainer and then I joined the committee. In fact at the time or writing, the seniors goalkeeper Morgan Hunter was put in place on my advice. She turned out to be a real find for the team.

I was in my element. I travelled to games all over Scotland not just with the senior team but with all age groups. I would often be seen at three game every weekend, travelling hundreds of miles over the period. Then I would sit editing photos being hassled by girls asking “when will the photos be ready?”

Good days!

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I managed to get university students to film one of our matches but lack of funding prevented it from continuing. I attracted other photographers and reporters but again with no expenses available, many weren’t interested.

I however was not in it for the money. It was a passion. I love football, I enjoy writing and of course my true passion is photography, so I was in heaven.

It would have been brilliant had I been employed on a paid basis but that was never going to happen within the women’s game in Scotland. In Europe, where finances are superior, that could always be a possibility but Scotland does not have the support of the press and media, nor does it attract the fans in the same way the continent does.

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Sadly all things come to an end. My main problem at the time was depression, something I have suffered all my life but came to the fore in my second season with the club. My life was turned upside down for over two years, meaning I could not commit to the club or anything else for that matter.

I took redundancy from my work for the same reason and struggled to find motivation for anything, irrespective of its importance. Life had little meaning.

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Sure I still did photography when my mood was good. I even covered an odd football match here or there but it had to be my decision whether I attended or not.

So Kilmarnock and I parted company but the door was left open for me to return but I never did.

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Now of course I live in Pattaya in Thailand but how long that will be for, I cannot say. I am desperately trying to find work in Asia, so that I can remain in the area but it is not easy to achieve.

If I return to the UK, it will be for one reason only. To work and save up some cash, so that I can travel further.

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Football gave me five or six terrific years. Some of the people I met, were awesome, especially around the smaller clubs. Whether it was male or female orientated  it did not matter. The organisers from the lower league sides had more time to speak to me, for all they wanted was promotion and support for what they were trying to achieve too.

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The larger clubs were not so accommodating for they had the support of the national press or made use of their own media personnel. But every role in life has its restrictions and its benefits. You take the good and you do your best to work around the bad.

Over the piece I had a fantastic time with brilliant memories. I do miss the football and all that it entailed but I guess those days are long gone.

It did provide me with one photograph that I will never forget. It was taken at one of my first matches at a ladies game. The sun was shining, not a breath of wind was to be had. Perfect conditions for playing the beautiful game.

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Half way through the second half of the match; a Kilmarnock player who was unknown to me at the time, suddenly went down screaming in pain, clutching the back of her lower leg. Cramp!

Not being allowed on the field of play to help her, I did the next best thing. I snapped away to capture the moment. Kirsty Munro was livid when she noticed me but I continued nevertheless. If looks could kill I would have been struck by a bolt of lightning.

A year or so later, I was attending a Kilmarnock v Aberdeen game and I had the photo printed in poster size and with the help of one of the Killie backroom staff, I had it placed in the home dressing room wall before the players arrived. A bit of fun to give what was a struggling outfit at the time, a lift in morale.

Miss Munro took the poster home so I guess she liked it eventually.

The image is above. A face etched with pain, dirty knees and painted nails. Brilliant!

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A Night At Cloud9 Bar

A good friend of mine requested that I should come along to Cloud9 Bar on Wednesday 28th of December to say farewell to a long standing member of staff. I happily agreed and suggested I could capture the moment for ning on camera.

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Ning is a comical girl who always has a smile on her face and will often be seen laughing and joking with the customers. So it was a no brainer when I was invited along.

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The bar itself sits on Soi 15 off Soi Buakhao, one of the most popular streets in Pattaya. It is a modern bar, which has had a fair bit of money spent on it before it opened for business about six months ago.

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There is an excellent pool table, which caters not only for guests of the bar but for the pool team too, which plays in the local league competitions.

Large screen TVs dominate the walls, showing a mixture of football or other sports and music videos, which are diverse, catering for most tastes.

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The staff are friendly, offer a fast and reliable service and more importantly, do not hassle the customer in anyway.

For the party, the bar laid on free food, which was a mixture of Thai and western cuisine and was very palatable.

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There was also a surprise Birthday for Ning’s¬†boyfriend, which added to the evening’s entertainment.

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The alcohol in Cloud9 is incredibly cheap, possibly the cheapest in town. I am told other bars in the area match their prices but I have yet to find another one that keeps the prices as low as Cloud9.

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My lady and I had a grand time, meeting new people from around the globe. There were many hilarious moments, mainly from two Australian chaps, who were comedians in their own right.

And of course, there was ample opportunities for photographic purposes, which is my passion. Many of you will be aware if you follow my Blog, Facebook Page or Flickr.

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If you are in Soi Buakhao, give the bar a visit. Your wallet will thank you for it later ūüôā

A final note to a special lady – Ning, I hope you enjoy your early retirement. You will be missed by all at Cloud9.

The Corner House Bar

On Christmas Day I was invited to attend Christmas lunch at the Corner House Bar in Rompho in the city of Pattaya. I didn’t intend to venture far for Yuletide but I decide to take my friend up on his offer. I also took up the option of taking my camera with me.

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I have been in The Corner House a few times previously and always found it a friendly place to have a drink or an inexpensive meal, so I knew roughly what to expect.

Upon arrival, I sat outside, for in Thailand Christmas is a warm event. The sun was splitting the skies as the temperature peaked at around 33 degrees, unlike the cold wintry Crimbos I am accustomed to in my homeland of Scotland. a pleasant change indeed.

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The bar is situated at the corner of the Rompho Market Complex in Jomtien and is one of the first you will observe as you approach the area from Jomtien Beach. It has ample seating inside and out or you can sit on a bar stool within the bar and enjoy the sun as you watch the world go by. It has two open sides, which contributes to its spaciousness, with ambient lighting giving it a homely feel.

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You will be welcomed by friendly and courteous staff, who will serve you swiftly but will never hassle you in anyway. Press the bell for service and the girls will appear, take your order, delivering it to your table posthaste and always with a smile.

There are TVs suspended from the ceiling or walls as the bar offers live football and other sporting events for the customer to peruse whilst enjoying a cold beer.

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The Corner House serves excellent food from a small but varied menu, which is very affordable. The food is delicious and portions are on the large side.

If you fancy a game of pool, there is an excellent pool table in the bar and I am told the pool team is rather good.

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So back to Christmas lunch. Turkey is something I am not a huge fan off, unless it is for Christmas lunch or dinner. My food was well presented and looked mouthwatering. As I sampled my first piece of white meat, I was in heaven. The turkey breast was moist and cooked to perfection. The brown meat matched the breast for taste and quality, mixed with succulent potatoes and trimmings.

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I had of course been working the camera before and had watched with interest how the staff dealt with the high demand, seeing as the bar was sold out for Xmas lunches. They worked their socks of attending to their customers. The kitchen staff, the waitresses and bar girls all toiled in the heat of the moment to ensure that every customer was a happy one.

The bar had a DJ playing a mixture of Christmas tunes and assorted songs covering most genres. However the music was never overpowering, with the volume set so that people could enjoy each others company.

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What truly amazed me, was the diversity of the people in attendance. The majority were from the UK or Australia but it wasn’t single men. The bar had attracted families from the age of seven through to people in the sixties or seventies.

The was an extended table, which had twelve people seated at it, all English, all ages and with one intention; to enjoy themselves.

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The Corner House has a fantastic laid back and friendly atmosphere within good surroundings.

So if you are ever in Rompho and you fancy a quiet drink or a luscious meal or even to take in a football match on TV, then give The Corner House Bar a visit. You will not be disappointed.

Walking Street may be the place for wild nights out but The Corner House offers an alternative that is often desireable. This is a venue where everyone is welcome.

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My Return To Women’s Football

Today I made my return to photographing Women’s football matches after being offered the role by Glasgow City.

DSC_4989smallPreviously I have covered Men’s Junior football for three years or so before moving on to help the SWF with promotion of the ladies’ game. Following a six month break, I returned to work with FC Kilmarnock Ladies, where my responsibilities included¬†photographer, match reporter, web and social media administrator along with being an active¬†committee member.

However after 18 months or so with Killie, I felt that I had taken the role as far as I could and decided to step down and move away from football for a while.

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The opportunity to work with City was unexpected and following next to no negotiation at all, I returned to the land of grass and the round ball, capturing images from Bishopton v Glasgow City Development. The latter ran out handsome winners with a 7-0 scoreline but nevertheless, the home side displayed plenty of courage and determination during the match.

DSC_5016smallI have received a warm welcome from the City girls, despite only knowing three or four of the squad and look forward to many more rewarding days on the sidelines armed with my Nikons.

And to round the day off – for once I was dry despite being chilled by a strong gusty wind blowing around Erskine.

Winter Football Is Awful

Today I covered my first football match of 2014 in the rain, cold and wind resulting in yours truly being numbed to the bone!

As a result I have ordered a pair of photographer’s gloves to ensure my fingers never suffer at the hands of the weather again.

Madness

With women’s football, which is played in summer time, the rain is warmer and slightly more acceptable to one’s digits.

Anyway, before a ball was kicked I spotted the chap above, doing his utmost to light a cigarette whilst the rain and wind howled around him. It took him a number of attempts but he finally lit his cancer stick and puffed away happily.

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My next one is also not football related but was taken from behind the chap who was doing the video of the match. He was cold too I have to add but at least he had gloves on!

Now I cannot display any of the action shots from today as I am hoping to sell some over the next week or so, however I Eh Where Did It Go?will include the last one for this entry, which consists of a player from each side. The expressions on their faces as they both wonder how the ball got past them.

The match itself took place in Ayr and featured Ayr Boswell and Milton BC, who had travelled down from Stirling for this Scottish Cup tie. The home side ran out 3 – 1 victors despite missing a second half penalty.

A fair result I would say for Boswell took their chances when presented with them, whereas the Stirling side were less resourceful in front of goal.

Nevertheless, it was an entertaining match, played fairly and in good spirits. An easy day for the referee!

Tomorrow I may take in a ladies match if the weather isn’t too bad. If not I will have to discover something else to occupy myself.