US Reporter

The Story Behind the Viral Messi Photo

The World Cup this year was won by Argentina. Therefore, it is only natural that hundreds of images have arisen online to honor the Argentian squad that won the highly-coveted title, mainly its famous player, Lionel Messi.

The Messi image that went viral the most was of Shaun Botterill, in which Messi was seated on Sergio Aguero’s shoulder and clutching the World Cup trophy above his head. As he courageously contributes to another triumph that the Argentinians would be proud of, he smiles but with pride, and his eyes sparkle with joy. Messi posted the image to his Instagram account, quickly becoming the post with the most likes in the platform’s history. The photograph taken by Messi’s picture overtook another most loved image.

Several photographers, according to Botterill, positioned themselves in front of the stand next to the billboards. Then, immediately following the ceremony in which Argentina was awarded the World Cup, the team’s captain rushed over to the supporters, inciting a stampede of photographers to approach the Argentinian squad to capture the occasion.

“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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Versions of the Messi image

Botterill thought it was the ideal opportunity to catch Aguero, a former Argentine footballer, carrying his pal on his shoulders. He quickly gathered his tools, took a picture, and emailed it to his editors.

By chance, his son, a second aspiring photographer, was at the editing station that evening and responded to his father regarding altering the picture he submitted. Botterill recalls his kid telling him the Messi photo he shot was fantastic. In addition to the version Messi shared on his Instagram account, Botterill claimed to have other copies of the photograph.

“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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Botterill didn’t expect it

Botterill is not a very active user of social media. So he had first to be informed that the picture of Messi he captured had already become famous on a social media platform. The most liked photo on Instagram as of this writing is one taken by Botterill, according to Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Meta and owner of Instagram. The Messi photo currently has 72 million likes, which is continuously growing. Before Messi, an image of an egg received 57 million likes on Instagram, making it the most-liked image.

“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.”

He claimed that after spending 36 years in the business, it had never become boring. He stated that the same emotion he experienced decades ago, similar to someone who was just beginning to record the most iconic moments in sports, is still there now. Botterill first covered the World Cup in 1967 and again in 1994. Botterill stated that he wants to savor the occasion and share it with everyone.

“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.”

Photo Credit: Shaun Botterill

Source: CNN