One of the biggest European matches in the footballing calendar, the Europa League Final was staged at the 59,186 seated stadium Stade de Lyon, and I was assigned to fly over and cover the match between Marseille vs Atlético Madrid.
Training sessions – Day before final
Catching an early flight from London Gatwick to Lyon–Saint-Exupéry, I arrived at the Stade de Lyon the day before the final to primarily photograph both teams training sessions. With my ThinkTank International V2 roller and ThinkTank Glass Limo filled with Canon equipment, I joined the queue to collect my accreditation and photograph both Atlético Madrid’s and Marseille’s training sessions. The other reason for arriving at the stadium very early was to get an general idea of the stadium layout, capture some GV’s (general views), find out information about the photographers positions and pop down to CPS (Canon Professional Services) to fix one of my lenses.
Hours before kick off the photographers chairs were placed around the electronic boards. I went over to have a look and choose a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice position. Because they're was 120 accredited photographers, it would not be wise to just have one preferred photo position, you’ve got to have a back-up and have a back-up’s back-up. Thankfully out of 120 photographers, I was number 28, so I got to chose my 1st preferred position which was in the south-west corner behind the Atlético Madrid fans and sticking to it.
I believe it’s important for any major final in any sport for a photographer to choose a position and stick to it, theirs nothing worse than running around panicking and worrying that you’ve chosen the worst photo position. As Cristiano Ronaldo once said to help motivated Moutinho take a penalty for Portugal against Poland in the 2016 Euro’s “It’s in God’s hands now!”. Timing is also very important, especially having a plan of action near the final whistle because one team will lift the trophy. So at the 89th minute when Gabi of Atlético Madrid scored his sides 3rd goal, I put away my 400mm lens and dashed to the south-east corner to be first in queue to dash even more to get a centralised position on the photographers trophy presentation podium to photograph Atlético Madrid lift the UEFA Cup.
At the end of the day, its just another football match, yes the occasion is much bigger then normal, its the Europa League Final, but as long as you stay calm, stay focused, and don’t run around like a headless chicken trying to photograph everything, but instead capture the story of the Europa League Final, pause for a few moments to realise where you are, take everything and enjoy it.
Link to gallery
Next stop, Wembley Stadium to cover the FA Cup Final between Chelsea vs Manchester United.