Escaping to the Gaza shore

Growing up in Gaza City, I used to go to the sea with my family in the summer time, escaping the heat of Sheikh Rudwan neighborhood where we lived.

The sea has always been our refuge from the difficult day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip. Like many youths in Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, I rarely left my town before I joined Reuters. A visit to the beach, a swim in the sea or a picnic with my friends was the best form of enjoyment we could have.

After I became a photographer I discovered many new faces to life next to the sea. I took notice of those whose lives were dependent on fishing and the limitations imposed by Israel that they needed to cope with. I have joined fishermen on their trips to the sea, and spent many hours with them. I saw their dismay when they lost a catch, and their disappointment when they faced an empty net after a long journey. I was also witness to their joy when they made good catches on lucky days. I recall one time I saw the most sincere smiles I have ever seen on the faces of some fishermen returning from a successful expedition.

I also recall some painful memories from the sea. Before Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 large areas along the beach were off limits because of the Jewish settlements. Several times I covered confrontations between the Palestinian residents of these areas and Israeli forces.

The joy of these residents after Israel pulled out was unforgettable. People have flocked in masses to the beaches as if to make up for years of restrictions.

Every time I stand by the sea, I gaze at the horizon and whisper: ‘I know you have many secrets to unfold and many surprises to bring, but the one thing I have in common with you is an ambition that is as endless as you.’

Striking the balance on the pitch

Every trip to Wembley Stadium where football is played is a passionate affair. The preparation, expectation, the rise of tension, the meeting of friends and foes, fear of not being match-fit, your position, good luck or bad luck, missing opportunities, grabbing at a half opportunity and making it work, a flash of inspiration, getting the goal (Oh joy! Oh joy!), missing the goal (let the pitch open and swallow me whole) and of course the team. Always team; will you win or lose? And that is just the photographers.

Recently a picture editor told me he receives about 27,000 images every day. He looks for short cuts to be able to see the best pictures that tell the whole story without getting snowed under looking at hundreds of pictures he doesn’t need. How can we help?

I am very preoccupied with the future of news pictures. Questions I ask myself are “is coverage at major events very different now from the past? And what will be relevant in the future?” I decided to apply this question to the Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich Champions League final at Wembley Stadium. What pictures are needed? Simple to answer, the fans, great action, the goals, the celebration, the dejection, the match changing incident, the final whistle moment, the personalities and of course the trophy.

Putting this into context the first final I ever shot at Wembley was totally covered by two photographers, one at each end and on three rolls of film each – first bike back to the office after 20 minutes action and then he’d return to speed me back to the office to process and print my other two rolls that contained all of the above – hopefully sharp – and all in 108 frames. Often there were gaps in content and to win you had to have less gaps than your competitors. The sense was the more you shot the less gaps and the better the coverage.

Today every corner is covered and the technology that is used now allows skilled and clever sports photographers (who actually understand the story of the game) to capture every moment with the pictures transmitted within seconds. There should be no gaps in the coverage. Everything should be there for the editor to chose from. With every incident covered the question is how many pictures do we need to send from this final to satisfy client needs – a quick search reveals that Reuters moved about 280 pictures.

Looking at the data, the five photographers in the stadium filed to the editor a total 4274 frames. Bring in remotes to the calculation (they can’t be edited in camera), each photographer will have a least one, the editor probably looked at between 18,000 and 20,000 pictures. In short we moved to the wire 6.5% of all pictures filed to the editor that were not shot on a remote. 1.5% if you include remotes. A hard and fast night for the editor

A publication picture editor needs to decide what the key moment is and which key moment makes the best picture for their own publication. Each editor will try to differentiate their own publication from their competitors by using different pictures. What is very interesting is looking at the selection of fronts and sports pages from Germany the Monday after the game.

International publications will of course take a different look at the Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund final and I think the winning goal celebration is a key international image. It has everything – the team hero, international star, and man of match celebrating his winning goal, his teammate runs with him, arms in air, mouth wide open while in the background the slumped defeated Dortmund defenders. The boldness of the image will allow it to still make visual sense used small, either in print or on hand-held devices.

What is important to know is that each photographer has this key moment from their own angle as you can never predict where the best angle can be seen from. This is the editor’s desktop of that moment.

On one hand, picture editors need more choice but on the other hand, they need less pictures to look at. What editors actually want are different images and not more of the same. Was the first goal important to have? Of course, but less important once the equalizer went in. Looking at the whole game retrospectively how important was Ilkay Guendogan penalty equalizer? Probably not important at all. Should it have been moved? Yes, because it’s a great picture of a key moment up until the winning goal by Robben. Do they want lots of versions of this – no, just the best.

So what is my conclusion? Well, we can’t get any faster. Transmission from pitch to clients is now about 90 seconds for key moments. Can we move any less pictures during the match? Not without a crystal ball. What can we do to stop adding to the 27,000 pictures every day. We could wait until the end of the game and just file the key moments. Is that an option? Print editors not on deadline would, maybe, say yes while online live editors would scream “No!”

So what can we do to strike the balance needed? Firstly, photographers have to understand the news story at the sporting event. It’s not only about winning and losing, it’s about why the game was won and lost. Next, capturing the moments, if you don’t have the pictures the editor can’t chose them so without these you might as well not have bothered to turn up. Technology – if you don’t understand the technology you are using, you will be too slow so you might as well file all at the end. And there is the overriding importance of the edit. Too tight and the publications don’t have the choice they need; too loose and the good images are lost in a sea of secondary, irrelevant pictures.

Tiger ends two-year title drought with Chevron win

(Reuters) – Tiger Woods ended a frustrating victory drought of just over two years when he clinched the Chevron World Challenge which he hosts by one shot Sunday, holing a six-foot birdie putt at the last.A stroke behind fellow American Zach Johnson overnight, Woods fired a three-under-par 69 at Sherwood Country Club to claim the 95th tournament win of his career — but his first since the 2009 Australian Masters.Woods, whose world ranking plummeted from number one to 52nd while he struggled for fitness and form over the last two years with his private life in tatters, came from one shot behind with two holes to play to post a 10-under total of 278.

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“It feels great to go basically head-to-head against Zach all day,” a jubilant Woods told reporters after his spectacular birdie-birdie finish ended a run of 26 tournaments around the world without victory.”Zach put a lot of pressure on me. He turned the tide (on 16), next thing I am one down playing the last couple of holes. Then I made two good putts.”Asked to describe his feelings after ending his lengthy title drought, 14-times major champion Woods replied: “It feels awesome, whatever that is.”I know it’s been a while, but also for some reason it feels like it hasn’t (been a while) because when I was coming down the stretch there I felt so comfortable.

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“Was I nervous? Absolutely. I’m always nervous in that position but it’s a comfortable feeling, and I enjoy being in that position,” added Woods, who will rise to 21st when the new world rankings are issued Monday.Johnson, seeking his first victory since last year’s Colonial Invitational, had to settle for second place in his effective head-to-head with Woods after closing with a 71.Britain’s Paul Casey, who opened with a 79 in Thursday’s wind-buffeted opening round, signed off with a 69 to secure third place at five under.Johnson held a one-stroke lead at the start of a glorious, sun-splashed autumn day at Sherwood and he preserved that advantage when he and Woods each birdied the par-five second.However, Johnson then bogeyed the next two holes — missing the green to the left off the tee at the par-three third and failing to reach the green in two at the par-four fourth — to slip one stroke behind Woods.

Johnson immediately responded with a battling birdie at the par-five fifth.Despite ending up above a fairway bunker with his drive and clipping tree branches with his second shot for the ball to advance only 100 yards, he then struck a sizzling approach to five feet and knocked in the putt to draw level with Woods at eight under.Johnson and Woods both bogeyed the tricky par-three eighth to slip back to seven under before reaching the turn three ahead of the chasing pack.Woods edged a stroke in front with a birdie at the par-four 10th, where his approach from the right rough ended up within three feet of the cup.He picked up another shot at the par-five 11th after reaching the green in two, but then bogeyed the par-three 12th where he found the left greenside bunker off the tee.

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Johnson again caught Woods with a birdie at the par-five 13th, where he got up and down from just short of the green, and the pair stayed level with three holes to play.Both players laid up at the par-five 16th and Johnson edged a stroke in front after hitting his approach to 12 feet and calmly rolling in the putt.Woods immediately countered with his 15-foot birdie putt at the 17th before driving his right fist forward in celebration as the watching gallery roared its approval.That set up the grandstand finish on 18 where Woods triumphed in style after recording his fifth birdie of the day.”There were certainly a lot of positives out there today, and I can obviously think of a lot of shots I gave away,” Johnson said. “I just came up a little bit short.”I executed well when I needed to, hit good shots when I needed to, and I putted pretty well for the most part. Overall I’m not disappointed in my performance or my approach. I’m just not overly ecstatic about the outcome.”

Can Manchester United Compete Without Ryan Giggs And Paul Scholes?

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Alex Ferguson is no stranger to infusing his squad with new blood and wielding the axe on senior players. Over the years, his risk taking on team selection had resulted in handsome rewards and some spectacular failures.While the jury is still out for his latest bet on Michael Owen, nobody will debate the success he yielded in the ’90s when he threw his lot behind the fledglings comprising Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, David Beckham and Nicky Butt.However, the stakes have gotten higher and Ferguson is not given to wholesale changes to his squad anymore. Competition in the Premier League has increased tremendously with the influx of foreign money and it is no longer a walk in the park or a two horse race between Manchester United and Arsenal. By embarking on spending binges, Chelsea, deprived of success for 50 years have become a Premier League powerhouse.Manchester City are also building a team based on this formula and garnered initial success by demolishing Arsenal and going right down to the wire in the Manchester derby. While Arsenal continue to have a say in the title race, there are also lurking threats posed by the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa which have benefited from capable and consistent management.

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In addition, the debt obligations of Manchester United, thanks to the Glazers’ leveraged buy-out, also mean failure is not an option. Catastrophic financial implications await Manchester United if their title chances and entertainment value decline.Hence, it is not surprising that Alex Ferguson has developed an “unhealthy” dependence on Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Both have been the bedrocks of many brilliant Manchester United teams but age is no longer on their side.Ferguson is reluctant to see Paul Scholes end his stellar service but the latter has indicated that this season could be his last. Scholes has been enjoying a renaissance the last few years after a successful comeback from illness and injuries. Impulsive tackles aside, he has established himself as one of the best midfielders to grace the Premier Leauge.Paul Scholes is most impressive with the ball at his feet. He exudes an assuredness; even with opponents breathing down his neck, he is rarely forced into making stray passes. His passes may appear gloriously simple, yet the range and unerring accuracy are the envy of many footballers.Indeed, the statistics speak for themselves. Against Birmingham, Scholes made 100 passes, 97 of them successful, while against Wigan, he made 41 passes, with 40 of them successful. Against Stoke City on Saturday, his record stood at 70 passes, 67 of them finding their targets.The other indispensable veteran is Ryan Giggs whose recent displays has Alex Ferguson waxing lyrical on his longevity. Ferguson said: “I don’t know what else there is to say about Ryan. It’s not a matter of him defying his age, it’s that there’s no discernible deterioration in his game.”

“He is an absolutely marvellous player who has thoroughly deserved all the superlatives and praise he has had down the years.”“The amazing thing about him is the youthfulness he continues to show. It’s as if he is just starting out his career. The other great thing about him is you can praise him to the heavens and he won’t be affected by a single word of it.”To put Giggs’s longevity in context, it is not difficult to play football till 35-36 years old when languishing in the bottom divisions, but to play an influential role at the highest level for a club like Manchester United where there is always intense pressure to win is awe-inspiring.Comapred to United’s right wing where many have come and gone, including Andrei Kanchelskis, David Beckham, Karel Poborsky, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jordi Cruyff, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, nobody has really toppled Giggs from his rooster except for Alex Ferguson’s decision to move him into central midfield.Some fans had called Ryan Giggs the Benjamin Button of the Premier League and it is an apt description for the extraordinary way in which he rolls back the years. The youthfulness in Giggs’s play has coincided with his superb match fitness, lack of injuries and confidence.

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Giggs turns 36 in November, but his form has been excellent so far. He created eight of United’s goals in his last three appearances. Micah Ricards, who has a tough job of shackling Ryan Giggs in the 4-3 Manchester derby loss, is not alone in feeling embarrassed that he cannot outrun nor outlast a player many years his senior.Days later, it came down to the Welsh wizard to provide two magical moments for Manchester United to break down a stubborn Stoke’s defense through Berbatov and O’Shea. Wolfsburg were then given a reminder of Giggs’s evergreen status when they fell prey to his deflected free kick and a superb laid-off for Michael Carrick.I believe Ryan Giggs is a better player than he was four or five years ago when Manchester United went three seasons without a league title and Giggs was singled out by the fans for his peripheral impact.Appeasing the fans’ dissatisfaction by finding a scapegoat will have been an easy route for a manager to take. Fortunately, Alex Ferguson refused to bench the player and maintained his unwavering support during those dark moments.It is impossible to speak about the legend Ryan Giggs without mentioning the crucial role Ferguson played as his mentor. From the day Giggs burst on the scene and displaced Lee Sharpe at the tender age of 17, Alex Ferguson was there to shield him from the impressionable media who drew comparisons to George Best.

Ferguson realizes that such attention could be a curse and destroy the budding talent if expectations fall short. Amid all the hype, he ensured his prodigy has his feet firmly planted on the ground, behaves in a professional manner and is kept away from bad influences in football.Giggs has repaid his faith and today he is one of the seniors who passes on the proud Manchester United tradition to the youngsters and provides a calming influence, experience, motivation and close bonding on the pitch.Looking at the accomplishments of Ryan Giggs, it makes me wonder if there will be another player who can accumulate as much awards during his lifetime in this era of “modern” football. As Manchester United’s most decorated player, Giggs has won 11 Premier League titles, two European Cups, four FA Cups and three League Cups, as well as the PFA Player of the Year award last season. Yet, success has not bred any complacency in him. In fact, he remains as hungry for success as ever.Giggs scored his 150th goal in all competitions during the Champions League victory over Wolfsburg, becoming the ninth player to reach that landmark. He is also on track to breach the century goals in the Premier League, having scored in each season of the Premier League since its inception in 1992.The goal scoring records are impressive given that Giggs’s importance has never been measured by the number of times he finds the net but rather the chances he created.

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While past achievements are no indication of the future, Ryan Giggs has no intention of getting by with sub-standard performances. To stay at the top at his age means Giggs has to be more disciplined than his peers in preparing his body for the rigors of Premier League and Champions League football.Brazilians Ronaldo and Ronaldinho may have excelled in their prime but once they put on the extra pounds, they become liabilities to their teams. Fortunately, flab is not a word you associate with Ryan Giggs.Ryan Giggs’s temperament, experience and thirst to improve also sets him apart. Aware that blistering pace and dazzling footwork are no longer his forte, he has cultivated other areas of his game, like accuracy in dead ball situations and passing.While Giggs is still skillful enough to stay close to the touchline and pull opponents wide, his conversion into a central midfielder means he has to play a more intelligent game and reads the game well to distribute passes. As a winger, he just needs to focus on getting past defenders and then cross the ball into the six yard box. His ability to refine skills to suit Ferguson’s strategic needs speaks volume of his versatility.

FIFA 2008 World Player of the Year – Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, FIFA World Footballer of the Year 2008. Already crowned European Footballer of the Year 2008, Ronaldo added to his trophy collection with the ultimate accolade for any footballer. Born in 1985 in Funchal, Madeira, Ronaldo has reached the peak of his profession in just a few short years.

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The World Footballer of the Year award is voted for by coaches and captains of the world’s international football teams. Each coach gets three votes, the player voted the top player by the coach gets five points, the second three and the third player one point. The winner is simply the player accumulating the most points. There is also an award for the best female player in the world.The men’s award was introduced in 1991 and the women’s award a decade later. Historically, the men’s award has been dominated by European based Brazilian players, winning eight out of the eighteen titles. The 2008 winner, Cristiano Ronaldo beat Kaka of Brazil, last years winner, into second place. Third place went to Argentina`s Lionel Messi, followed by Fernando Torres of Spain and Xavi, also of Spain.Cristiano Ronaldo joined Sporting Lisbon at the age of twelve, making his debut at the age of seventeen, when he scored two goals on his first team debut. Sporting won the championship in that season, and was already attracting a posse of scouts from the major clubs.

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However, it was not until Sporting beat Manchester United in a pre-season friendly that the British press sat up and took notice. Ronaldo was mesmerizing in the friendly match and by half time the Manchester United players were trying to persuade Sir Alex Ferguson to buy the young Portuguese winger.Sir Alex agreed and Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United for 18m Euros. He was so highly thought of that he was given the famous Number 7 shirt, worn by legendary Manchester United players including George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.That season he wowed the fans with his blistering speed, fancy trickery and heading ability. In his first season he won the Man of the Match award in the FA Cup final, and was voted the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award by the Manchester United fans.Over the next three seasons he managed to increase his goal tally, reaching double figures for the season in 2005/06. He was becoming physically stronger and had developed the ability to play on both wings. Although he had a controversial World Cup in 2006, Ronaldo contributed 23 goals in 49 games, in the league and probably just as important assisted in another 20 goals as his teamwork drastically improved.

The 2007/08 season started with a sending off in the second game of the season. Cristiano Ronaldo duly returned to play against his old club Sporting Lisbon, scoring the only goal in the first leg and an injury time winner in the second leg. Ronaldo finished by gaining second place in the European Footballer of the Year awards, the Ballon d`Or, coming second to Kaka, and third in the FIFA World Footballer of the Year behind Kaka and Lionel Messi.

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On 12th January 2008, Ronaldo scored his first ever hat trick for Manchester United as they beat Newcastle United 6-0 to go top of the Premiership. He would shortly match his previous seasons goal tally with his twenty third goal of the season in the 2-0 win against Reading.Cristiano Ronaldo was given the captain’s arm band as Manchester United played Bolton,beating them 2-0, with Ronaldo scoring both goals. This was the game where he beat George Best’s record for a Manchester United midfielder by scoring his thirty third goal of the season.Manchester United played Chelsea in the Champions League final where he scored after twenty six minutes. Chelsea scored on half time, and the match played out to a 1-1 after extra time.So, to penalties. Christiano Ronaldo thought he had lost the match for Manchester United as he missed his penalty. Needing only to score to win the match for Chelsea, captain John Terry slipped on the run up, and Manchester United were champions once again.Although there have been ongoing reports that Real Madrid were about to sign the Portuguese star, Ronaldo has remained a Manchester United player, and has recently committed his future to the Red Devils.

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During 2007/08 as United won the UEFA Champions League title as well as the Premiership and with Ronaldo winning the European and World Footballer of the Year, leading Dutch legend Johan Cruyff to claim that Ronaldo was better than Manchester United stars George Best and Denis Law. By the end of the 2007/08 season Ronaldo had amassed 42 goals, just four short of the Manchester United record number for a season.Cristiano Ronaldo’s strength is his ability to be skillful at speed. His trademark step overs have been copied by young players all over the world, but few can perform them whilst running flat out against an opponent. Bobby Charlton once remarked that the step overs were embarrassing at first, and certainly he was accused of being a “one trick pony”, but since then, as he has grown older, so with it has come an extra physical strength and maturity.Ronaldo’s speed of thought is often as effective has his physical speed. His dedication to football has allowed him to develop other skills. He is a master of dead ball situations, and his free kicks are often repeated on television, simply because of their spectacular technical brilliance. Ronaldo also has the added plus of being an excellent header of the ball. He is is simply one of the most skillful players of his generation.

As the legendary Pele handed Christiano Ronaldo his award as World Footballer of the Year, few would bet against him winning again, and one day we may see a young player receiving an award from Christiano Ronaldo, the greatest player in the world.