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


Lionel Messi sits on Sergio Aguero’s shoulders and holds the World Cup trophy high in both hands.

A broad smile spreads across his face and his eyes light up; It’s a moment of pure, raw joy, the culmination of a lifelong dream after years of World Cup heartbreak captured in seconds.

This is the photo Messi chose to post to celebrate their World Cup win over France, beating the average brown egg to become the most-liked photo in Instagram history, captured by front-row Getty photographer Sean Botterill. The greatest moments in sports history.

Photographers of Sunday’s World Cup final at Lusail Stadium had planned to stand on the pitch in front of the advertising stands in the main stand, where most of Argentina’s fans had gathered, Botterill said.

After Messi spent some time with his family after the trophy, the Argentina captain began to approach the fans, prompting a rush of photographers towards the goal at the end of the pitch.

“I almost got caught, but I just got caught in the right place,” Botterill told CNN. “I think most of us [photographers] To be honest, you always need some luck and I had a bit of luck on Sunday night.

“Messi was just there and he didn’t move a lot, sometimes he pushed you, he was just doing everything with one hand on the cup, with both hands.

“We had no idea what was going to happen in the end. You can plan for the trophy but you can’t plan for the run and you don’t know how chaotic it can be. I was very close to him, maybe two meters at most.

“It’s a really weird feeling, it’s a little bit surreal, you’re like, ‘Holy shit,’ he’s right where you want him to be, and that doesn’t happen very often.

“Even his arms are going up [with the trophy]I think holding him and smiling means he’s definitely spending time with his fans.”

This is a wider view of Botterill's viral Messi picture.

Botterill also took this photo of Messi lifting the trophy wearing a black and gold bib, a traditional outfit worn for special occasions and celebrations in the region.

As Agüero, Messi’s former Argentina team-mate, who retired in December 2021 due to heart arrhythmia, was carrying his friend across the parking lot, Botterill immediately grabbed the cable from one of the remote cameras behind the goal and plugged it into a socket. put it in my camera and send it to my editor.

Coincidentally, Botterill’s son was working at the editor’s desk that night.

“My oldest texted me and said, ‘Dad, I fixed your picture, it’s a really nice picture,'” Botterill recalled.

His son’s comments proved to be deeply flawed.

Afterward, Botterill “knew it was a great photo” — the modesty clearly runs in the family — but worried that another photographer from a slightly different angle might get a better photo because the “smaller space” could have taken a better photo. big difference.

The English photographer admitted that the crop Messi used on Instagram was not his favorite version of the photo, saying that the wider view would have given a wider perspective and better captured the praise the Argentina captain received.

Even after a career that began with the 1986 World Cup, Botterill says those moments feel surreal.

“I remember really thinking, ‘Blimey, how did I get to where I am?'” Botterill said. “Because in that situation, you’re governed by where the crowd pushes you.

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

“It had that effect, didn’t it? It looks happy-faced, happy-go-lucky, with a trophy, and it’s messy.”

As someone who doesn’t have a social media account, Botterill said she didn’t even realize her photo had made history.

On Wednesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that Botterill’s sensational post on Messi’s Instagram account had broken the record for the most likes in the app’s history. It now has over 72 million likes and counting.

Messi’s egg picture posted in 2019 has 57 million likes.

“It’s funny to me because I’m not on Instagram and I didn’t even know how to crop an Instagram photo,” Botterill said.

“It’s funny to me, you have a 55-year-old guy who’s not on Instagram and he has two sons and I think it’s the funniest thing.

“The youngest said: ‘Dad, it’s 62 million’. I’m from a small town in Northampton, so it’s weird.

“It’s crazy because … I had no idea what was going on,” Botterill added. “Just one co-worker texted me and said, ‘Oh, did you see how many likes you got.’ [your photo has]?’

“So all of a sudden I’m this old guy, not on social media, but it’s a little bit funny that I’m posting a little bit of a publicity photo on the back of a great footballer. It’s funny – I didn’t know what was going on when I got off the plane.”

After 36 years in the industry, Botterill says he still feels the same passion and excitement he had when he was 18 trying to capture great sports moments.

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

Wind, rain, snow...

Or ice...

After covering his first World Cup as an editor in 1986, Botterill took a break from his career and even turned it down because he was busy with the 1990 World Cup. He returned to photography to cover the 1994 World Cup and has appeared in all publications since then.

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

With his huge portfolio spanning so many major events, Botterill struggles to pick a favourite.

He points out that photographers are “funny” people who rarely dwell on a photograph for too long, instead looking forward to the “next good shot”.

When things come together, as they did Sunday at Lusail Stadium, Botterill takes time to enjoy it.

“I think if you take a picture of a player or sports person out there, they can argue that he’s the greatest; Is it Pele? Is it Maradona?” he said.

“But the main thing is that [Messi] is up, so if you take a really nice photo of a great player, it feels good.

“He’s amazing, amazing, he’s unbelievable. So it gives you the buzz to get really good photos.

“Everybody else can decide what they think about that picture, but it’s a really nice picture of one of the greatest players, so that’s the best thing for me. That’s why you got the job.”


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