Win, Lose or Draw

“We’ll get there. We’ll make pictures.”
-Billy Calzada, photojournalist

This day started with a lot of questions. I had racked my brain the night before with different options and scenarios of how I wanted to cover the beginning of the World Cup. It would be such a momentous event, and I was trying to plan every last detail. I knew traffic would be a mess. If I took my car, I’d have to park in the outer perimeter (if I could find a parking spot) and walk 2-3 miles to the stadium. If I took a bus, it would be easier, but I’d have less flexibility of where I could go. I didn’t really sleep well because of the anticipation and anxiety. In short, I felt overwhelmed. I left the house this morning, still not knowing exactly what I would do. I set out driving, with two sets of directions written out: Soccer City Stadium and Constitution Hill, where the park-and-ride was. Ultimately, I decided the safe bet would be the bus.
Even then, once I finally got me ticket and figured out where to go, I wondered if I made the right choice. As I got into the line that snaked around the building, into the parking garage and up the ramp, wrapping around the second level, I wondered if I made the right choice. After finally making it onto a bus, only to find myself sitting in gridlocked traffic in downtown Johannesburg, I wondered if I made the right choice.
Too often, we dwell on the “what-ifs” of the decisions we make, rather than just going with the flow and accepting things as they happen. Once I realized I was making it more difficult than needed to be, things began to turn around.


I really only planned to photograph outside the stadium, taking photos of fans as they arrived. I figured once the game started, there would still be people who, if they couldn’t be inside the stadium, wanted to be close to it anyway. But when I got off the bus, I was given an opportunity to be inside the stadium for the game. Go with the flow.


Trying to make unique photos takes calculated risks. Some work out, some don’t. South Africa took a 1-0 lead when they scored in the 55th minute against Mexico. It was the first goal of the match. The first goal of the World Cup. It was scored by the host team. Everybody went nuts. And I was on the top-most row of the stadium, looking down on a whole bunch of backs.


What’s that old sports quote about how ending in a tie is like kissing your sister? South Africa and Mexico played to a 1-1 draw. When the game ended, there was no celebration. No dejection. Everyone just kind of got up and left.
I’m not a big fan of draws. I think if you invest an hour-and-half of playing time, there should be a clear winner and loser. But maybe, just maybe, for this game a draw is acceptable. When people look back on this day, they will talk about the historic event that took place, when the World Cup came to the African continent. They will talk about the impact it had on South Africa. They won’t be talking about the score.

All in all, it was a pretty great day — the five hours of roundtrip travel time, notwithstanding. Here are a few photos:

National Anthem

Mark Sobhani is a Texas-based documentary photographer represented by Zuma Press.
He is traveling to South Africa to document the FIFA World Cup’s impact on local communities. Please visit his Kickstarter site for more information and to support this project.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: South Africa, Mexico end in 1-1 draw in opener | International News - Stay up to date with the latest World News, Finance & Business, Green News, Technology and Sports

  2. rg

    You captured the inner feelings of each person in your photos. Awesome!!
    You are the best!!

    June 12, 2010 at 9:49 am

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