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World Photography Day: The stories behind 7 of the most iconic football photos ever

14:29 GMT+3 19/08/2022
A look at some of the most iconic photographs in football history

Before YouTube highlight reels, social clips and views from every possible angle, photography was one of the most important mediums for football. Images quickly spread around the world, showing Maradona's improvisation or Pelé's genius. Nowadays, photos still play an important role in the sport, helping to capture a moment in time, the passion of the crowd or the technical brilliance of a player.

To celebrate World Photography Day, here are 7 of the most iconic football photos ever and the stories behind them.

  • The New Wembley (1923)

    #1 The New Wembley (1923)

    Wembley Stadium’s inaugural event came in April 1923, and saw Bolton Wanderers face off against West Ham, both hoping to win the FA Cup for the first time. Crammed into the stadium was a scarcely-believable attendance that was officially listed as 126,047. Almost a century later, people still dispute the official count, with some people saying that as many as 300,000 watched David Jack and Jack Smith bag the trophy for Bolton Wanderers.

  • Liverpool / AC Milan

    #2 An Unlikely Hero (2005)

    Even 17 years later, Liverpool’s comeback against AC Milan – and the fact that Jerzy Dudek inspired them to victory – feels like a fever dream. In between the six goals, missed penalty and a second coming for spaghetti legs, Dudek made a double save that made it look like fate was on Liverpool’s side. The first save comes as Andriy Shevchenko gets on the end of a cross, and Dudek throws himself down to save it. Shevchenko gets there first but Dudek immediately blocks the rebound, although it always looks more by chance than design.

  • Zidane WC

    #3 What Could’ve Bee (2006)

    It seemed like it was meant to be. Zinedine Zidane playing in his last ever match, having led France to the 2006 World Cup final. It started so well, with Zidane scoring in just the 7th minute. As Extra Time reached a conclusion, though, Zizou turned around, responding to provocation, and planted a headbutt square into Marco Materazzi’s chest. As he walked off, head bowed, he passed trophy he’d been hoping to lift.

  • Messi

    #4 A New King (2007)

    It’s hard to take a snapshot of one of Messi’s great ever goals. Picking the ball up just inside his half, the 20-year-old Messi sets off in the direction of the Getafe goal, By the time he’s taken it round the ‘keeper, lime green shirts are sprawled across the turf, watching helplessly as Barcelona’s prodigal sun just keeps going. In this legendary picture, three Getafe players are already in Messi’s wake and the captain David Belenguer is making a last ditch attempt to stop him in his tracks. Is that a sly grin just breaking on Messi’s face?

  • C Ronaldo

    #5 A Last Gasp Winner (2018)

    After a comfortable first leg away win, Real Madrid were on the ropes. Juventus had fought back, and by 61st minute the tie was level. In the 98th minute, Madrid had a penalty and no one but Cristiano Ronaldo was going to take it. He scored, he ripped off his shirt and he roared. Madrid were through to the next round. The Champions League season ended with the trophy heading back to Madrid for the fourth time in five years. 

  • Iniesta

    #6 The Departed (May 2018)

    After 674 games for Barcelona, this was it. After a routine win against Real Sociedad, and another chance to lift the La Liga trophy, Andres Iniesta was leaving. Soon, he’d head to Japan to sign for Vissel Kobe and start a new chapter. Before that, though, he walked back onto the Camp Nou pitch one last time, sat in the centre circle alone, and took it all in.

  • Boca River

    #7 Superclasico (November 2018)

    2018’s Superclasico was the first one ever to take place in an international competition, but it became a bit more international than expected. The first leg – where this picture was taken – was played at Boca Juniors’ La Bombonera stadium, with a follow up due at River Plate’s ground. That never happened though, and an attack on the Boca bus led to the second leg being played in Madrid almost a month later than scheduled.