Wall Street Times

The Photographer Behind the Viral Messi Image

This year, Argentina won the World Cup. As a result, hundreds of images have arisen online to pay tribute to the Argentinian squad that won the coveted title, mainly its star player, Lionel Messi.

The most popular Messi shot, taken by Shaun Botterill, showed Messi sitting on Sergio Aguero’s shoulder while clutching the World Cup trophy above his head. His face is engraved with a simple but pleasing smile, and his eyes glitter with satisfaction as he heroically delivers another triumph that Argentinians would be proud of. Messi posted the shot to his Instagram account, which has now become the most-liked photo in its history. The image surpassed another most-liked photo by the photographer who captured Messi’s visage.

Several photographers, according to Botterill, positioned themselves in front of the stand near the advertising boards. Following the World Cup ceremony, Argentina’s captain rushed over to his fans, prompting hordes of photographers to rush into the Argentinian side to capture the wonderful and joyous moment.

“I almost got trapped, but I got trapped in the right place. I think if most of us [photographers] are honest, you always need a bit of luck, and I had a bit on Sunday night. Messi was just there, and he didn’t move that much. Sometimes you get pushed around, and he just was doing all the bits, one-handed, two hands on the trophy,” Botterill recalled.

“We had no idea what was going to happen at the end. You can plan for the trophy lift, but you can’t plan for the runaround, and you don’t know how chaotic it’s going to be. I was pretty close to him. I’m probably like two meters away maximum,” he continued.

“It is quite a weird feeling, and it’s a bit surreal, you go: ‘Holy s**t,’ he’s right there where you want him to be, and that doesn’t happen often. Even his hands coming up [with the trophy], I think the way he’s holding it and smiling, he’s definitely got a moment with the fans.”

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Several shots of Messi

Botterill felt it was the right moment to capture when Aguero, a former Argentine footballer, lifted his pal on his shoulders. So he grabbed his equipment, took a photo, and emailed it to his editors immediately. His son, another budding photographer, was at the editing station that night and responded to his father regarding retouching the shot he submitted.

Botterill remembered his kid telling him that the photograph he shot of Messi was good. Botterill stated that he had copies of the picture Messi should have shared instead of the one he did on his Instagram account.

“I do remember thinking: ‘Blimey, how the hell have I ended up where I am?’ Because in those situations, you’re governed by where the masses are pushing you. When I look back, you can’t believe that guy is in front of you on the shoulders of Sergio Aguero, holding up the World Cup, showing that to his fans,” he said.

“It’s got that impact, hasn’t it? It’s got the happy face; it’s got the joy, the trophy and it kind of looks chaotic.”

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An unexpected achievement

Botterill is not very active on social media sites. So he had to understand at first that the shot he snapped of Messi had already made history on a social media app. Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Meta and the owner of Instagram, stated on Wednesday that Botterill’s shot is already the most liked on Instagram. According to the most recent tally, the Messi photo has 72 million likes and is constantly growing. Before Messi, the most liked photo on Instagram was one of an egg, which had 57 million likes.

“That’s the funny thing for me because I’m not on Instagram. I wouldn’t even know how to crop an Instagram picture. So for me, it’s hilarious, the fact that you’ve got this 55-year-old bloke that’s not on Instagram, and he’s got two boys who think it is the funniest thing ever,” Botterill said.

“The youngest one said: ‘It’s at 62 million, dad.’ I’m from a little town in Northampton, so it’s quite bizarre. It’s kind of crazy because I didn’t really have a clue what was going on. It’s only when a colleague messaged me and said: ‘Oh, have you seen how many likes [your photo has]?'”

“So it’s slightly ironic that all of a sudden I’m this old guy not on social media that, obviously on the back of a great footballer, has put out a picture that’s been picked up a bit. So it’s quite funny really – I got off the plane and didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

In terms of his enthusiasm, he stated that 36 years in the profession had not dulled him. He added that the sensation he experienced decades ago is still the same one he feels now as if he had just begun photographing the world’s most unforgettable sporting events. Botterill first covered the World Cup in 1967 and again in 1994. Botterill stated that he wants to relish the occasion and share it with people worldwide.

 “I think when you get a picture of a player or a sports person that is really up there, you know, they can debate whether is he the greatest ever; is it Pelé? Is it Maradona? But the bottom line is he [Messi] is up there, so if you get a really nice picture of a great player, it’s kind of a nice feeling.”

“He’s a great, he’s fantastic, he’s unbelievable. So that kind of gives you the buzz, to get a really good picture. Everybody else can decide what they think about the photo, but it’s a really nice picture of one of the greatest players ever, so that’s nicest bit for me. This is why you got to work.”