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"I found 50 Dead Moths in My Camera Bag" – We Asked a Photographer About the Euro 2016 Moth Plague

"We couldn’t protect ourselves and we couldn’t escape - they were everywhere."

by Benedikt Niessen
Jul 11 2016, 3:45pm

Foto: Imago/MIS

This article was originally published by VICE Sports Germany

Here's a puzzler: what can be found licking up the tears from Cristiano Ronaldo's face one moment, and inching towards Didier Deschamps' balls the next?

The answer, of course, is a moth at the Euro 2016 Final. Yesterday's game at Stade de France was the scene of a genuine moth infestation – a plague, if you will – after the stadium's lights were left on the night before. This turned it into a beacon for every moth in the city and, having made the trip, they thought they'd hang around for the big game. Unfortunately, it was a total let-down.

In fact, the moths were one of the highlights of an otherwise drab encounter. We talked to sports photographer Patrick Scheiber, who had to do his work for Foto Huebner behind the advertising hoardings with a few thousand moth corpses for company.

VICE Sports: When did you first notice the moths?

Patrick Scheiber: When I arrived at the press room in the basement of the stadium in the afternoon, two or three moths were hanging around a colleague. I found this pretty strange as there were a lot of them and they were very large. When we went into the stadium at half-seven, I was treading on one with every other footstep. There were thousands not even flying.

On the TV images we could mainly see the moths on advertising hoardings...

That's where I was working. On my chair behind the hoardings there were already a few moths. By then we knew that something was wrong.

Did UEFA explain this to you?

There was no official info or help. We knew that for safety reasons the lights had been left on the previous night, to deter terrorists. This also attracted moths, which I think surprised a lot of people.

How many moths are we talking about?

There were hundreds of thousands. They were on the corner flags, the advertising hoardings, and among the spectators. Really, they were in every corner of the stadium. Some colleagues who were mounted on the roof with cameras showed us videos of whole swarms flying up towards them.

Did the plague affect your work?

It was really annoying and disgusting. Some were big – four centimetres – and they got everywhere. They were constantly flying into the lens, my face, and the camera. And I was constantly stepping on them. After the game, I found like 50 dead moths in my camera bag. And when I unpacked my equipment there were more waiting for me, hidden in the small pockets.

Were there any tricks you could use to get rid of them?

We couldn't protect ourselves and we couldn't escape – they were everywhere! Our bug spray also did nothing. We were pretty occupied with waving the moths away and flipping them off our keyboards. Eventually I got myself a tight cap, and beside me there were colleagues with warm wooly hats! UEFA cleaned them up with a broom every now and again, and tried using vacuums to at least clean the subs benches of moths. This, of course, did not work.

Photo: Imago/MIS

How did the teams react?

The players and coaches were very annoyed before the match as the moths were also on the pitch and in the changing rooms. The players recoiled just like us. Initially it looked quite funny as the first balls were sending swarms up from the turf.

Were any of your colleagues not able to work because of the moths?

Although it was annoying it was also pretty funny. Some colleagues were pretty disgusted, but I didn't see anyone with an insect phobia or an allergy, so no one complained too much. In our job we're accustomed to these things happening.

Before this, what was your grossest experience in a final?

This was my first European Championships Final and I will never forget it! I was working in difficult conditions – borderline disgusting. On one hand, the pressure is already higher in a Euros final, especially at the end in the tussle to get the best pictures of Ronaldo with the trophy. Many colleagues get their elbows out. Still, rather moths than mosquitos!

Interview conducted by Benedikt Niessen: @BeneNie