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Capturing Lionel Messi's viral moment: The story behind Instagram's most-liked photo, as told by the photographer who took it


Getty photographer Shaun Botterill was the author of the photo shared by Lionel Messi holding the World Cup, which is already the most popular in the history of social networks. 

Mark Zuckerberg comments on the impact of the Qatar World Cup on Instagram and WhatsApp 0:52

(CNN) --

Lionel Messi sits on the shoulders of Sergio 'Kun' Agüero, both hands clasped tightly in the World Cup as he holds it aloft.

A wide smile etched on his face, his eyes alight.

It's a moment of pure joy, the culmination of a lifelong dream after years of World Cup heartbreak.

All of that captured in a split second.

It is the photo that Messi chose to upload to celebrate his victory in the World Cup in Qatar 2022 over France, and that has become the publication with the most 'like' in the history of Instagram, as confirmed by Meta.

The image was captured by Getty photographer Shaun Botterill, who had a front row seat to one of the most iconic moments in sports history.

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Botterill said that the photographers for this Sunday's World Cup final had made a plan for one of them to go and stand on the pitch in front of the billboards and next to the main stand that housed the vast majority of the Argentine fans. at the Lusail Stadium.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Leo Messi (@leomessi)

After Messi spent some time with his family after the trophy was handed over, the Argentina captain started walking towards the fans, prompting photographers to rush towards the goal at that end of the pitch.

"I almost got stuck, but I got stuck in the right place," Botterill told CNN.

“I think if most of us [photographers] are being honest, a little bit of luck is always needed and…I had a bit on Sunday night,” he added.

"Messi was there and he didn't move much, sometimes they push you, and he was just chanting the songs, with both his hands on the trophy," Botterill said.

“We had no idea what was going to happen at the end.

You can plan for them to lift the trophy, but you can't plan how it will happen, or how chaotic it will be.

I was quite close to him, probably two meters away at most," she recounted about the exact moment she took the picture.

"It's a pretty strange feeling, it's a bit surreal, because you think: 'Holy crap, he's right where I want him to be', and that's not very common," he explained.

And he added, about Messi's expression: "Even his raised hands [with the trophy], I think the way he holds it and smiles, he's definitely living a moment with the fans."

As Agüero — who retired in December 2021 after being diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia — carries his friend to the other side of the stands, Botterill immediately grabbed a cable from one of the portable cameras behind the goal, connected on his camera and sent the photo to his editors.

  • PHOTOS |

    The best images of the celebration of Messi and the national team in Argentina after winning the World Cup

By chance, Botterill's son was working at the editing desk that night.

"My oldest son texted me and said, 'I've edited your photo, dad, it's a very nice photo.'"

His son's comments, however, fell quite short.

(Credit: Buddha Mendes/Getty Images)

Immediately afterwards, Botterill "knew it was a pretty good photo" (modesty clearly runs in the family), but there was always the concern that another photographer at a slightly different angle might have captured a better photo, as "small margins" can make a big difference.

The British photographer admitted that the crop Messi used on his Instagram account was not his favorite version of the photo, as the wider view gives more context and better captures the standing ovation the Argentina captain was receiving.

Even after a career that began at the 1986 World Cup, Botterill says moments like these sometimes seem surreal to him.

"I actually remember thinking, 'Wow, how the hell did I end up where I am?'" says Botterill.

"Because in those situations, you end up positioned where the masses push you."

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"When I look back, I can't believe that guy was in front of me on the shoulders of Sergio Aguero, holding the World Cup, showing it to his fans." He added: "He has that impact, doesn't he? He has a happy face He is happy, he has the trophy and everything around him is a bit chaotic”.

Record on Instagram

As someone who doesn't have a social media account, Botterill says she was initially completely unaware of the fact that her photo had made history.

This Wednesday, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, confirmed that Messi's Instagram post, led by the one taken by Botterill, had broken the record for the most "likes" in the history of the platform.

As of this writing, he has over 69 million likes, but the number is still rising.

Published in 2019, the photo of the egg that Messi's publication usurped the record has 57 million "likes".

“It's funny to me because I'm not on Instagram, I wouldn't even know how to crop an Instagram image,” says Botterill.

Credit: Shaun Botterill

Credit: Shaun Botterill

Credit: Shaun Botterill

"For me it's very funny the fact that you have this 55-year-old guy who is not on Instagram and has two children who think it is the funniest thing in the world (...) The youngest told me: 'He is 62 million, dad.

I'm from a small town in Northampton, so he's pretty weird."

“It's kind of crazy because…I really had no idea what was going on,” adds Botterill.

“I only found out when a colleague messaged me and said, 'Oh, have you seen how many likes [your photo] gets?'

“It's a bit ironic that all of a sudden I'm an older guy who's not on social media who obviously, thanks to a great footballer, has posted an image that's been replicated a bit.

It's pretty funny: I got off the plane and I didn't know what the hell was going on."

After 36 years in the industry, Botterill says he still feels the same passion and enthusiasm he did as an 18-year-old trying to capture iconic moments in the sport.

After covering his first World Cup in 1986 as a photo editor, Botterill took a break from his career and even turned down the chance to go to the 1990 World Cup because he was busy putting up scaffolding.

He returned to photography to cover the 1994 World Cup and has been in every edition since.

Born near the English city of Northampton in 1967, Botterill got his first break at the age of 16 at the agency founded by renowned sports photographer Bob Thomas, working in the editing darkroom.

Given his extensive portfolio and the number of important events he has covered, Botterill has a hard time picking his favorite photography.

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He claims that photographers are "kind of funny", rarely taking too long on a snapshot, and instead always looking forward to the "next decent picture".

However, when it all works out, as it did at Lusail Stadium on Sunday, Botterill takes a moment to enjoy it.

“I think that when you get an image of a player or an athlete who is really up there, you can debate if he is the best in history or if he is Pelé or Maradona;

but the bottom line is that [Messi] is up there, so if you get a really good image of a great player, it's a very nice feeling."

“It's great, it's fantastic, it's incredible.

So that encourages you to get another really good picture." He added: "Everybody else can decide what they think about the picture, but it's a really good picture of one of the greatest players of all time, so that's it. the best for me. That's why you have a job."

PhotographyLionel MessiWorld Cup Qatar 2022

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2022-12-21

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