Amazing archive images of World Cup and football legends go to auction

Raymond Kopa, 1958 World Cup, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, Sweden.
Raymond Kopa, 1958 World Cup, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, Sweden. (Image credit: © Collections L’Équipe)

A tribute to the greatest legends of football (not the American kind), iconic and historic images from previous games, and multiple World Cup Finals, are soon being auctioned for sale online and at Millons Auction House in Paris, France. The auction will be taking place on November 8, 2022.

The auction titled For Eternity comprises 170 images, and includes items such as original contact sheets, that have been sourced from the deep and tremendous archives of the French sports newspaper, L’Equipe, which was founded in 1946. 

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Legendary footballers have been captured on camera over the years by sports and press photographers, and this collective archive and auction of images documents a century of some of the most profound footballing highlights, including that of the World Cup and its icons from 1954 onwards, to matches held in the present day - and even portraits of profound athletes in women's football, too. 

Early images of David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Ronaldo, Messi, Drogba, George Best, and a young Pelé can be found in the auction collection, which has been titled For Eternity. These still images and prints, many shot in black and white, along with several contact sheets and film strips collectively encapsulate the very heart and mythology of football, one of the greatest sports on Earth with the most loyal fans.

Italy - Germany, FRE (4-3 A.P), 1970, Aztec Stadium, Mexico (Image credit: ©André Lecoq/ L’Équipe)

All the works offered for sale are certified unique art prints, complemented by custom-made frames of the Flamant workshop. The black and white images have been produced using piezography, a carbon pigment ink-based technology that guarantees longevity for over 150 years. 

Buyers of images and prints will become the sole owners of the photo that they have purchased, though the original digital files, or the original silver photo, will remain the property of L'Equipe, as do the editorial rights. Each lot will be delivered with certificates of authenticity, and you can even purchase one of the images as an NFT at the auction, if that's more your style. 

PELÉ Contact Sheet -1970-1971 (Image credit: © / L’Équipe)

Senior journalist for L’Équipe, and chairman for the board of directors of Nice's National Sports Museum, Vincent Duluc, has shared that: 

"This catalog 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."

Kylian Mbappe, 2018, Lujniki Stadium, Moscow (Image credit: © Pierre Lahalle/L’Équipe)

He continues, "There's a grace in these images that our photographers were able to capture and that we, as viewers, take away with us. 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." 

The Hand of God triptych series (Image credit: © André Lecoq/L’Équipe)

One of the most famous and notable image series from the collection is a triptych titled, The Hand of God, and it features Diego Maradona (1960-2020), during his 56th-minute goal and eventual win against England in the quarter-final of the 1986 FIFA World Cup, at the Azteca Stadium, Mexico City. 

The Argentinian player supposedly punched the ball into the net with his left hand, and aside from the England players and Maradona himself, no one else witnessed the action, even the referee - who awarded the goal. Argentina later went on to win the 1986 World Cup Final against West Germany, and Maradona was given the nickname "El Pibe de Oro" (The Golden Boy) which stuck throughout his career.

Check out some of the spectacular images from the For Eternity auction in the image gallery above, and be sure to browse the auction catalog which is now live on the site and available as a pdf for intrigued football fans and prospective buyers to have a browse through, and maybe even place a bid ahead of the auction sale which will take place on November 8, 2022.

July 19, 1966 Edition, Diptych of Pele and Brazil, Goodison Park, Liverpool. (Image credit: © André Lecoq/L’Équipe)

You may also be interested in the best telephoto lenses, as well as the best 150-600mm lenses, and the best 100-400mm lenses, and don't forget the best budget telephoto lenses for those just starting out in action and sports photography!

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.