It is perhaps the most iconic photo of recent World Cup history. The greatest player in the World, playing in a World Cup Final, in the last game of his career, walking past the World Cup which he should have won, after being sent off the pitch for headbutting the Italian player Materazzi in the chest. Zidane cost France the World Cup that year with a moment of utter stupidity. A shameful end to a fantastic career.
With the 2010 World Cup underway in South Africa, one thing is certain; Photography will define this World Cup, as it has done on so many occasions.
The World Cup has provided plenty of iconic images throughout its time. We in England have the image of the great Bobby Moore in 1966, clad in red, on the shoulders of his team mates, holding the Jules Rimet World Cup, on every poster and T-shirt made for the World Cup. It is a part of our collective memories. Perhaps the second most iconic photo for England in the World Cup, is Gazza weeping after being booked for a poorly timed tackle, which would mean he would have missed the World Cup Final, during the 1990 Semi Final in Italy. We lost. So it didn’t matter. But, the tears of Gazza are pretty iconic nonetheless. And the third most iconic, in English football, has to be the Hand of God moment from 1986. Although, it’s more ridiculous that Maradona, at about 3 foot tall, managed to out jump Peter Shilton.
The moment the winning team hoists the World Cup into the air, and the momentary excess jubilation on their faces, along with the fireworks and the celebrations in the background, will provide a photo that will appear on the front page of every newspaper in that Country, and inside pretty much ever newspaper in the World.
EDIT: As I wrote this before the England v USA game today, a perfect opportunity for a photographic World Cup moment arose during the game, as the England Goalkeeper mishandled the ball, resulting in a 1-1 draw. A blunder he isn’t likely to forget any time soon.
We’ve seen the photos of the appalling hair cuts, and of the angry Irishman yelling obscenities at USA ’94, of Rivaldo clutching his face in agony despite the ball hitting his stomach, of Rene Higuita’s scorpian style save, of Leicester boy Gary Lineker’s face when he notices Gazza is about to cry, of Diago Maradona’s drug enduced facial expressions that got him banned in ’94. The single moments captured in the photos, help us to remember the occasion.
The less we say about Ronaldo’s wink, the better.
Photography works not only as a medium for the artistically minded Diane Arbus types; it also provides us with context. Whether it be war, in which the written word cannot produce the context and the horrific realism that a photo can; or whether it be a photo that defines a particular sporting event or era, photography is a cheap and easy way to capture a moment, a single nano-second of time, forever. However, having the eye to catch a moment that becomes iconic, is a talent that cannot be bought. Over the coming years, including this year, high resolution photography will be far more easily available to the masses, providing an opportunity for citizen photographers and citizen journalists writing on their personal blogs, to show talent that is very much underground. We will see far more iconic images that will capture the unique mood of that year precisely. It will be interesting to see what the defining image of this World Cup is.