The sun was out, the beer gardens were full, and for just over an hour on July 11 when Kieran Trippier's free kick buried itself in the Croatia net, we truly believed it was actually coming home. It was a summer we won't forget, and nor will photographer Robbie Jay Barratt, who spent six weeks in Russia shooting his first ever World Cup.

Working for AMA Sports Photo Agency Robbie touched down in Moscow for the opening ceremony and spent the next six weeks shooting as many games as physically possible. His incredible shots forever masking a far less glamorous journey of washing in toilets, sleeping in airports, and daily flights around the vast Russian land.

We caught up with the Huddersfield fan and all round top Yorkshireman upon his arrival back to the UK. Through bleary eyes he gave us an insight into his manic summer of football.


Robbie, what a summer. When did you find out you’d be covering the World Cup?

I found out maybe over a year ago? Something like that. I went out to cover the Confederations Cup for the agency I work for (AMA), with the boss and good friend Matthew Ashton. This was all in preparation for the World Cup, which was brilliant to get a feel for the place & how it all kinda works. That was a breeze compared to the World Cup!

Shooting a World Cup. That must have been something you've always wanted to do?

Definitely. It’s always been a dream of mine ever since I knew I wanted to shoot football. It’s the pinnacle of world sport at the end of the day. You could say it was on my ‘career bucket list’ so that’s firmly ticked off now. Hopefully many more to come.

How long were you out in Russia for?

I was out there for just shy of 6 weeks. From the very first whistle to the last!

Did you travel to Russia with any idea of what to expect from the country?

Yeah, I knew I liked the place because of covering the Confeds. But I had only just dipped my toes in the water with that as there was only 4 host cities to cover for that. Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Sochi & Kazan. So I had an idea of what to expect, but had no idea about the other places like Samara, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg etc! So I went in to all that pretty much blind.

You travelled all over the country. How busy was your schedule?

Pretty busy you could say! During the group stages we covered a game a day. Nearly doing 3 flights a day as you had to go back though Moscow all the time. I spent 9 hours in an airport one day waiting to transfer. I went a full week without a proper hotel during the 2nd & 3rd games of the group stages, cowboy washes in the disabled toilets, sleeping wherever I could – on planes, trains, taxis, airports – did the trick! I only missed the 3rd Place play off game.

Is it all shooting/editing/travelling? How hard did you have to work?

I would honestly say it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. You do things to your body that you just shouldn’t do, the strain you put on yourself is tough. You kind of get in to a strange rhythm of just ticking over on two hour sleeps. But I wouldn’t change it for the world, looking back now I am incredibly proud of what I did and achieved. Even Matt who has covered a crazy amount of World Cups said it was the toughest he’s ever done – and this was my first!

After the group stages we got a little bit more time for rest and to recuperate but my body just crashed because I stopped doing what I was doing, so I got quite ill from it! 

Were there any cities that you particularly enjoyed?

I LOVED Moscow. From the confeds I didn’t really warm to the place. But from the World Cup – what a city it is. Everyone’s so lovely. So diverse & just cool! Saint Petersburg is just oozingly beautiful. Sochi = the Russian Benidorm!

I didn’t spend much time in any of the other cities to be honest as I just always flew back or to somewhere else after the games. Was pretty much straight in straight out. Game to game.

"Sleeping wherever I could – on planes, trains, taxis, airports." Or on his own camera at half time...

What did you make of the Russian people and the overall atmosphere of the tournament?

The atmosphere was incredible! Especially because Russia did so unexpectedly well & of course England... there weren't many England fans out there to begin with and I would say that I was disappointed by that, but not surprised by all the scare mongering that had gone on. But by the end they were out in force! Seeing my mates at home absolutely loving it made me proper happy.

The people of Russia are lovely. There was no problems what so ever!

Did you get much free time to explore some of the cities you were staying in?

Not really, it was pretty non-stop. We got to explore Moscow a bit more after the group stages.. as we were based there.

What was it like to attend some of the England games?

I still can’t even believe it happened. I don’t think it has properly sunk in yet. Kane’s winner against Tunisia will stick with me forever. Of course the penalty shoot-out too, clammy hands! Just insane.

Was it difficult to enjoy the England goals because you had to focus on getting the right shot?

Not really. Its always enjoyable and it’s all part and parcel of what I do. You obviously support them and want them to win and you are far more engaged than say a game like Morocco vs Saudi Arabia. But I naturally just go in to that mind frame now where you need to do your job first and foremost... it’s a weird one to explain I guess. I must say I had a few first bumps here and there though.

What are you looking for when you’re pitchside? Do you have any favourite kind of shots you're looking for, or specific angles?

During the World Cup it’s a bit different as you are restricted to where you want to go. Very rarely do you actually get to sit where you want. I’d say it all depends on what happens on the field really, you need a bit of luck to go your way. You could sit there all game wanting a specific shot and it not happen, but being ready and alert for something spontaneous to happen is a big part of it. That’s why I love shooting football cause you just never know what is going to happen next.

I’d say the stadium and environment plays a big part too.

Do you get a say on where you’re positioned in the stadium?

In a way, yes. But it’s all done on priority groups of the nations playing, etc. So the majority of the time you’re sitting somewhere you probably wouldn’t normally choose but you’ve just got to deal with it and do the business. You cant predict where what is going to happen where at the end of the day.

Is there much competition between photographers to get the best shots?

Naturally, yes. But personally because there are so many photographers there, I jus forget about that and do my own thing. Get something different.

What were some of your favourite memories from the tournament?

Kane’s last minute winner against Tunisia, that's the stand out for me! The opening game was pretty special too as I was up in the tribune so had the perfect view for my first World Cup game. Was a bit mental that.

The final too, obviously. One to remember with the most biblical downpour I have ever witnessed during the trophy lift and celebrations. It made it very difficult to get shots. Pitchside was just like a swimming pool.

Any favourite shots that you took?

Kane kissing the badge after the Tunisia winner. Messi’s celebration against Nigeria. Neymar crying after the Costa Rica game. Southgate screaming to the England fans after the Columbia penalty shoot out. Pogba pointing to the skies after the trophy lift.

That’s probably my top 5! They all merge into one to be honest!

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Any moments that you missed for whatever reason?

I missed lots! For various reason. Tiredness, being blocked by other photographers or a linesman. We face many problems when trying to get the shots, never as straight forward as it seems!

There must be milliseconds between getting the best shot or an average one. How do you ensure you get it, more than you miss it?

It’s a tricky one really. If you’re tired from all the travel, your brain is naturally not going to be as instinctive as it would be if you have had a good nights sleep in a proper bed. Or if your back hurts for example you might not be able to move as quickly! So just trying to look after your mind and your body, eat right & keep hydrated!

You were so close to shooting England in a World Cup Final. How much did the semi-final defeat hurt?

It was incredibly painful. I was a broken man. I still to this day can’t believe I was so close. For my first World Cup to shoot England in a final would have been one hell of a story to tell. But it wasn’t to be. However it was an amazing ride.

I know everyone back home was feeling the same, but to be there in that stadium and feel the raw emotion from it all... I just can’t put it in to words.

Which fans did you enjoy shooting the most?

The Argentina fans were outstanding. The noise they created was ridiculous. The Peru fans were also amazing. Props to the England fans when they all came out in force too.

Were there any surreal moments throughout the tournament?

Just all of it. That fact that I was even there was surreal. Walking out pitchside at the Luzhniki knowing you’re about to photograph a World Cup final. I was immensely proud.

Best and worst things about Russia?

Best – Moscow. The people. Putin t-shirts & dolls.

Worst – Some of the food. The fact it’s so bloody big! Their alphabet...

What are you planning on doing with your complete set of World Cup 2018 shots?

Nothing major in mind, not personally anyway! We as an agency (AMA Sports Photo Agency) might produce a book from it.

I’d love to put on an exhibition somewhere and to just see them all big in print. But I won’t have the time unfortunately. I very rarely get chance to see them properly printed and framed which is a shame.

Your job means you travel a lot. What's up next?

As of writing this, I have been in America for two weeks covering the ICC, Tournament of Nations & some MLS. I land back in the UK in 3 days time. Then it’s straight back in to English leagues. Starting the season at my beloved Huddersfield Town vs Chelsea. Which I’m very excited for. No rest for the wicked... or something like that.


Above: Home comforts. Robbie's first Premier League game of the 18/19 season is Huddersfield vs Chelsea.

How flexible do you have to be with your job?

Pretty flexible, some weeks are quiet and some weeks are hectic. Some weeks you might be flying around the world and then the next you might just be driving 20 mins to the John Smiths Stadium. But that’s what I love about it, there no routine and it keeps you on your toes.

Best and worst parts of your job?

Best – All of it. Being sat pitchside so close to the action just doing what I love is beyond a dream. Driving up to the stadiums knowing that you’re going to work. Seeing your images used around the world in various ways is also very satisfying. The feeling you get when you NAIL that shot, just never gets old. Only thing I can compare it to is a rasper in to the top bin and seeing it ripple the net!

Worst – Being away from home for prolonged periods of time now and again. As much as I like traveling & exploring the world I always love coming home. Stuck in traffic, lots of flights. When you miss a shot that you know you should have got! But it’s all worth it at the end of the day. I have the best job in the world & I'm eternally grateful for it... I'm not even sure you can class it as a job?

Get some sleep now, kid. Follow Robbie's travels on Instagram & Twitter.