Shaun Botterill, photographer of Lionel Messi’s Instagram World Cup record photo, tells the story of the snap


Lionel Messi sits on the shoulders of Sergio Agüero, both hands clasped firmly on the World cup trophy while holding it up.

A wide smile is etched on her face, her eyes alight; is a moment of pure and raw joy, the culmination of a Eternal dream after years of World Cup angst, all captured in a split second.

it is a photo that Messi chose to go up to celebrate his world cup victory about France, now the most-liked post in Instagram history, beating out an ordinary brown egg, and was captured by Getty photographer Shaun Botterillwho had a front row seat at one of the most iconic moments in sports history.

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

After Messi spent some time with his family after the trophy was handed over, the Argentina captain began to approach 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 tells CNN. I think if most of us [photographers] Let’s face it, you always need a little luck and I had a little on Sunday night.

“Messi was there and he didn’t move much, sometimes you get pushed, and he was just doing all the parts, one handed, two handed on the trophy.

“We had no idea what was going to happen at the end. You can plan the trophy lifting, but you can’t plan the race and you don’t know how chaotic it will be. I was pretty close to him, probably about two meters away at the most.

“It’s quite a strange feeling, it’s a bit surreal, you’re like, ‘Holy crap,’ he’s right where you want him to be and that doesn’t happen often.

“Even his hands going up [with the trophy]I think from the way he’s holding it and smiling, he’s definitely having a fan moment.”

This is a larger view of Botterill's viral photo of Messi.

Botterill also took this image of the trophy lifting where Messi is wearing a black and gold bisht, a traditional garment worn in the region for special events and celebrations.

As Agüero, a former Argentine teammate of Messi who retired in December 2021 after being diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia, led his friend to the other side of the stands, Botterill immediately grabbed a cable from one of the remote cameras behind the goal, plugged in his camera and sent the photo to his editors.

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,’” Botterill recalls.

Your son’s comments have turned out to be quite insufficient.

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

The British photographer admits that the crop Messi used on Instagram was not his favorite version of the photo, as the wider view provides more context and better captures the adulation the Argentina captain was receiving.

Even after a career that began at the 1986 World Cup, Botterill says these moments still seem surreal.

“I actually remember thinking, ‘Wow, how the hell did I end up where I am?’” says Botterill. “Because in those situations, you are governed by where the masses push you.

“When I look back, you can’t believe that guy is in front of you on the shoulders of Sergio Aguero, holding the World Cup, showing it off to his fans.

“It has that impact, doesn’t it? He has a happy face, he has joy, the trophy and he seems a bit chaotic”.

As someone who doesn’t have a social media account, Botterill says he was initially completely ignorant of the fact that his photo had made history.

On Wednesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that Messi’s Instagram post, headlined by Botterill’s snap, had broken the record for most likes in the app’s history. At the time of writing, he has over 69 million likes, and counting.

Posted in 2019, the egg photo that Messi’s post usurped for the record now has 57 million likes.

“That’s what’s fun for me because I’m not on Instagram, I wouldn’t even know how to crop an Instagram image,” says Botterill.

“It’s hilarious to me the fact that you have this 55-year-old guy who isn’t on Instagram and he has two guys who think he’s the funniest thing in the world.

“The youngest said, ‘It’s at 62 million, dad.’ I’m from a small town in Northampton, so it’s pretty weird.

“It’s kind of crazy because…I really had no idea what was going on,” adds Botterill. “It’s just when a colleague messaged me and said, ‘Oh, have you seen how many likes? [your photo has]?’

“So it’s a bit ironic that all of a sudden I’m an older guy who’s not on social media who, obviously, on the back of a great footballer, has posted an image that’s been taken up a bit. So it’s actually quite 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.

Picture perfect... Botterill has been covering the world's biggest sporting events for decades...

Come wind, rain or snow...

Or ice...

After covering his first World Cup in 1986 as an 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 age 16 at the agency founded by renowned sports photographer Bob Thomas, working in the darkroom.

Given his extensive portfolio and the number of major events he’s covered, Botterill has a hard time picking a favorite photo of himself.

He reveals 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 when you get a picture of a player or athlete that’s really up there, you know, you can debate whether he’s the greatest ever; Is it Pele? Is it Maradona?” he says.

But the bottom line is that he [Messi] it’s up there so if you get a really nice picture of a great player that’s a nice feeling.

“It’s great, it’s fantastic, it’s incredible. So that encourages you to get a really good image.

“Everyone else can decide what they think about the photo, but it’s a really good photo of one of the greatest players of all time, so that’s the best for me. That’s why you have to work.”

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