IMAGO/Domenic Aquilina

Frame by Frame with Domenic Aquilina: The Tale of My Busy Summer Nights

Discover the journey of IMAGO award-winning sports photographer Domenic Aquilina through a bustling summer, where every shot tells a story.

Words by Domenic Aquilina.

*Summer lovin’, had me a blast; Summer lovin’ happened so fast*—so go the iconic lyrics from the Grease soundtrack. And yes, the song concludes with, *But, oh those summer nights.  Tell me more, Tell me more!* Well, buckle up, dear reader, because that’s precisely what I intend to do. I’m about to unpack probably the busiest summer nights (and days) of my 40+ years of sports photography, both locally and abroad. Prepare for a ride through time-zones, sports, and sheer adrenaline!

Domenic Aquilina
IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Ana Culic of Malta’s national team performs during her artistic swim. Tal-Qroqq, Malta, 29 April 2023.

A Sun-Kissed Start: Games of the Small States of Europe 2023

With the beckoning of summer and temperatures already soaring, the Games of the Small States of Europe 2023 (GSSE 2023) unfurled on our sunny island between May 29th and June 3rd. The spectacle was nothing short of jaw-dropping. From badminton to athletics, sports disciplines were strewn all over the landscape. I found myself dashing from one end of the island to the other, cameras and lenses in tow. The result? A plethora of fantastic captures and an ecstatic photographer—you guessed it, me.

Journey to Istanbul: The 2023 UEFA Champions League
Frame by Frame with Domenic Aquilina: The Tale of My Busy Summer Nights

IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Manchester City players celebrate post-final whistle at the UEFA Champions League Final against FC Internazionale Milano. Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey, 10 June 2023.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get busier, I packed my bags for my sixteenth UEFA Champions League Final on June 10th, this time in the mesmerizing city of Istanbul. The experience never dulls. Old pals, the thrill of the match, and the pressure to get the perfect shots make it an event I eagerly anticipate every year. This year, Manchester City and Italy’s Internazionale graced the stage, with the English side eventually clinching the treble.

My least favorite thing is having to get away from creativity and being in thousands of meetings every day. I think there is a point where we abuse so many meetings and cut the creative process, there are many meetings that could be solved with an email, and that’s something I think we should change.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

And let’s not forget the goosebumps that crept in when I glimpsed the Ataturk Stadium. Memories of my first final in 2005, a battle royale between Liverpool FC and AC Milan, washed over me. This year, it was another Milanese team aiming for glory, but alas, they were thwarted by an in-form Manchester City, thanks to a brilliant individual effort from Rodri.

The Trials at Home: EURO 2024 Qualifiers
Domenic Aquilina

IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Trent Alexander-Arnold of England in action during the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifier against Malta. National Stadium, Ta’ Qali, Malta, 16 June 2023.

Not one to rest on my laurels, I was soon back on home turf with the Malta national team, facing off against England in a EURO 2024 Qualifier on June 16th. Though the English giants waltzed away with a 0-4 victory, capturing moments with stars like Harry Kane was an added bonus. The very next day, it was wheels up to Trnava, Slovakia, to lock horns with Ukraine—a match that could have easily gone either way, eventually tipping in favor of Ukraine.

Making Waves: LEN 2023 European Water Polo Men Qualification
Domenic Aquilina

IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Joao Reisen of Luxembourg competes in the Men’s 200m Breaststroke Final during the GSSE 2023. Malta, 31 May 2023.

Back on the rock, and there was little time to ponder. The LEN 2023 European Water Polo Men Qualification Round Group B was upon us. My love for aquatic sports is no secret, and these qualifiers offered me yet another chance to collect some mesmerizing water ballet in my viewfinder. Oh, and by the way, our national team punched their ticket for the 2024 LEN European Water Polo Championships in Netanya, Israel!

Football’s Young Players: UEFA European Under-19 Championship 2022/23

The deluge of events continued. Next up was the UEFA European Under-19 Championship. While juggling deadlines and high expectations, I had the privilege of contributing content for various editorial sources, including and the Spanish Football Federation. The climax? A serendipitous capture of Portugal’s Miguel Fale’, hand in hand with his fiancée, a once-in-a-lifetime snapshot that underscores the sentiment that the best moments in football—and photography—often arrive unannounced. I just told myself “this is it!” and grabbed my Canon R5 + RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens, grabbing a burst of around 10 images to make sure I will have the luxury of choosing from. These are the captures that do not come by a second time. I leave you to decide if this capture stands out or not.
IMAGO/Domenic Aquilina

IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Portugal’s Miguel Falé walks hand in hand with his fiancée post the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final against Italy. National Stadium, Ta’ Qali, Malta, 16 July 2023.

Where Local Passion Meets International Exposure

Amidst the international dazzle, local clubs like Hamrun Spartans also vied for European glory, participating in early rounds of UEFA Club competitions. The Maltese sun might have been sweltering, but the enthusiasm from local fans added a whole new layer of warmth to the experience.

A British Respite: Sela Cup in Newcastle Upon-Tyne

The summer itinerary took me to the British Isles next, covering a pre-season football tournament—Sela Cup—in Newcastle. It was a battle among titans: Newcastle United, Fiorentina, Villareal, and OGC Nice. With the competitive fervor at its peak, picking the best shots for my clients and the media was no easy feat.

The Water Polo Grand Finale
Domenic Aquilina

IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Jake Muscat of Neptunes WPSC competes for the ball against Matthew Zammit of San Giljan ASC during the Malta BOV Premier Division Play Off Final Match. National Pool, Tal-Qroqq, Malta, 26 August 2023.

As the season winded down, the crescendo in local water polo was impossible to ignore. Star-studded lineups, including athletes like Maro Jokovic and Filip Filipovic, set the stage for some of the most breathtaking moments of the summer. Capturing their athletic prowess was akin to capturing lightning—exciting, challenging, and infinitely rewarding.

Personal Breathers: The Importance of Balance

Don’t be fooled; the chaos was punctuated with occasional respite. A relaxing swim, quality time with the family, and even a short vacation found their way into my jam-packed schedule. Because what’s work without a little play, right?

So there you have it—the behind-the-lens look at a summer replete with action, passion, and countless memorable snapshots. To all you aspiring photographers out there, take it from me: In football and in life, the action doesn’t begin or end with a whistle. It’s an eternal sequence of unscripted moments, each waiting for its time to shine through your lens. As for me, I’m already looking forward to the next summer. Tell me more, tell me more? Don’t worry; there will be plenty more to tell.
IMAGO/Domenic Aquilina

IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Seraina Piubel of FC Zurich Frauen celebrates after the opening goal against Birkirkara during the Women’s Champions League match. Centenary Stadium, Ta’ Qali, Malta, 09 September 2023.

Domenic Aquilina
IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Action snapshot from the Women Rugby Sevens Final, Malta vs. Andorra during the GSSE 2023. Tony Bezzina Stadium, Malta, 02 June 2023.

Domenic Aquilina
IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Malta’s goalkeeper and captain Jake Tanti dives to deflect a shot during the LEN 2023 European Water Polo Men Qualification match against Bulgaria. National Pool, Tal-Qroqq, Malta, 25 June 2023.

IMAGO/Domenic Aquilina
IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Premier League referee Michael Oliver officiates the Sela Cup match between Newcastle United and ACF Fiorentina. St. James Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, August 05, 2023.

Domenic Aquilina
IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Malta’s Nirvana Micallef competes in the Women’s 100m Freestyle heats, earning qualification. National Pool, Tal-Qroqq, Malta, 30 May 2023.

IMAGO/Domenic Aquilina
IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Elliot Anderson of Newcastle United leaps for a header against ACF Fiorentina during the Sela Cup match. England, 05 August 2023.

Domenic Aquilina
IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Lucas Macula prays before the UEFA Europa Conference League match. National Stadium, Ta’ Qali, Malta, 17 August 2023.

Domenic Aquilina
IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Liechtenstein’s Fabio Toscan emerges during the Men’s 200m Breaststroke Final. National Pool, Tal-Qroqq, Malta, 30 May 2023.

Domenic Aquilina
IMAGO/ Domenic Aquilina | Ivan Monzon of Spain U21 heads towards the goal, scoring the 0-5, against Malta in the UEFA U21 Championship 2023 Group B qualifying match. Tony Bezzina Stadium, Paola, Malta, 08 September 2023.