French sporting publication L’Équipe has trawled through its archive of 12 million photographs to formulate a gallery of 170 pictures of football’s greatest players and moments, all to be auctioned off next month as special edition commemorative prints ahead of the forthcoming World Cup in Qatar.
Global footballing icons Maradona, Pele, Cruyff and Platini are all in there, captured in their pomp. George Best, Bobby Charlton and Stanley Matthews join them in a list of names and occasions that together form a photographic history of world football, from the 1950’s to the present day.
“There’s a grace in these images that our photographers were able to capture and that we, as viewers, take away with us,” says L’Équipe’s Vincent Duluc.
“Pelé, the boy king in 1958, or sitting at the back of the bus in Brazil with Garrincha in 1962; Franz Beckenbauer, from behind with his arm in a sling in Mexico in 1970; and Johan Cruyff, with his number 14, the captain’s armband and a two-striped shirt to show that he was different.
“The mythology is tangible. It runs through the contact sheets of the 1966 and 1970 finals which, when scrutinised, take you on a journey and freeze time. It also runs through Guadalajara, and through Seville, and through the triptych of the hand of God.
“The Ballon d’Or photographs are a catalogue of elegance and grace. They reveal what footballers were and what they have become in the eyes of people around the world.
“But they also tell us what they have always been: children who gaze at the object of their dreams with the innocence that runs through their game and lasts but a moment. It is this moment that changes everything, that never fails to move us. That snapshot in time that, thanks to this catalogue, becomes an eternity.”
The players are all global greats, while there are memorable moments too, capturing the highs and lows of World Cup football, particularly for England. There’s the Queen on the Wembley pitch shaking hands with the players ahead of 1966 glory. And there’s Maradona, 20 years later, using his hand to punch the ball into the back of the England net.
Mexico 1986 and time stood still for the split second it took him, the best player in the world, to rise higher than Peter Shilton in the England goal. He scored and England were on their way home.
Yet, frozen in time, captured for eternity, there was the picture to prove that Maradona, the world’s greatest player, had not used his head, but used his fist.
“Hand of God”, he said, afterwards.
The World Cup accounts for 87 of the pictures that feature in L’Équipe’s auction, entitled “For Eternity”, when 170 different photographs go on sale at 6pm on Tuesday, November 8th, days after the Ballon d’Or ceremony and as the next World Cup fast approaches.
Successful buyers will become the sole owner of the picture they have purchased and each will come with a certificate of authenticity in a custom hand-make frame, while L’Équipe will continue to own the original digital file or negative, as well as retaining editorial rights.
L’Équipe’s Duluc, as well as writing for the publication, is also chairman of the board of directors of the National Sports Museum in Nice.
“The L’Équipe photo collection is one of the most iconic archives of press images in the world,” he writes.
“The beautiful game will be honoured in this sale, with the opportunity to acquire 170 moments of eternity – retracing the history of football.
“This catalogue is a wonder and a journey, one which, for most of us, has grasped us and not let go. At some point, the World Cup has burst into our lives and gotten under our skin, never to leave again. There’s a reason we call it simply “the World Cup” and not “the Football World Cup”. There’s just nothing else quite like it.
“This collection takes us by the hand and plays on our emotions, simultaneously telling stories, recounting history and reminding us of our own, through its images that look back on a century of footballing highlights. These stills – in black and white and colour – along with the contact sheets that encapsulate the inseparable pieces of a moment in history, plunge us into the very heart of the mythology of the greatest sport on Earth.
“After Jules Rimet oversaw the creation of the World Cup and L’Équipe floated the idea of a European Championship, France Football launched the Ballon d’Or, which has become one of the most talked about events of the century.”
Click here to view the full catalogue of photographs online and to place bids ahead of the auction on Tuesday 8th November 2022.
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