The most popular photo on Instagram until recently was a simple brown egg on a white background. 58 million liked the photo, and that’s exactly what it was about: a Briton wanted to set an Instagram record with the photo. But the record was lost from the egg for a few days. New leader: Lionel Messi with his first position after the World Cup final against France. How he lifts the trophy into the night sky. Getty photographer Shaun Botterill took the photo.
SZ: Congratulations, Mr. Botterill, you’ve brought the egg out of the top spot on Instagram.
Shaun Botterill: Thanks, I had never heard of the egg before. I have an Instagram account, but I don’t really use it. To be honest, I don’t know anything about Instagram at all.
72 million people like a photo you took there!
It’s crazy. That’s more than the population of Great Britain.
During the final, 220 photographers rushed around the square. Enough competition.
And everyone had their eyes on Messi! After the match, I was constantly looking for him. After him and the trophy. Foolishly, at one point, there were suddenly two trophies on the field. Someone from the Argentinian family brought a fake trophy from the public. It was really confusing.
Tell me how the photo was taken.
Messi sat with his family for a long time after the ceremony. Finally, he stood up and walked towards the fans, chanting his name. So I waited near the gate in front of the billboard and the curve with the Argentinian supporters. And then everything happened very quickly. Messi dove under the goal and suddenly he was right in front of me, on the shoulders of former team-mate Sergio Aguero. It was surreal.
His photo is very reminiscent of the iconic photos of Maradona being carried around the stadium by the crowd after winning the 1986 final.
Of course, we always hope for something like that. That something like this happens to you as a photographer. Luck is always part of it, you can’t plan it.
It is often said that great images tell stories. What story does your image tell?
The photo shows Messi’s relief he was under such pressure of expectation. He’s often a bit shy, but here you can only see that genuine joy on his face, he identifies with the fans who celebrate him.
The fans are not even visible in the photo.
There were almost only the Argentines in the stands in front of him. By then, many fans had already left the stadium. I think that’s why the low angle works so well, because empty bleachers are less eye-catching.
Messi cropped the photo for Instagram, does that make it better or worse?
His cropping is clever because the image makes even more sense when it’s just him and the trophy. I like the wider-angled original even better because it has more atmosphere, with the chaos all around it, the faces looking at it in awe, and the phones drawn.
Didn’t all those cell phones annoy you?
No, sometimes people with cellphones get in the way of photos, but that’s part of it here, it’s a photo from 2022. That also sets it apart from photos of Maradona in 1986.
Mr Botterill, is Messi now? greatest of all timethe greatest player in history?
Wow, difficult. He’s definitely one of the greatest now, but I personally have a soft spot for Maradona. In 1986, I had the chance to photograph it. He was really funny and very photogenic!
You haven’t missed a world championship as a photographer since 1994. What moments do you remember?
So much! Germany 2006 was a great tournament. When Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro lifted the World Cup trophy, I passed the other photographers in front to get into a better position. Photographers can be crazy. And you also have to be a bit daring in this job: you always have to try to exhaust all the possibilities.
Who should photographers pounce on if Messi is set to retire?
Erling Haaland is awesome! Crazy, he swims around the pitch and wherever he goes he wreaks havoc on the opponent. I also like Jude Bellingham, a tall, physically strong guy who slides very lightly on the pitch. They always look great in photos. It is truly a privilege to be able to photograph top athletes. Because they always leave something behind.
More episodes of the SZ series “A call to…” can be found here.
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