Monday, June 24, 2024

Triumphant Spanish team returns to victory parade

Tens of thousands of escatic fans cheered Spain's Euro 2008 players as they were feted in a parade through Madrid in an open-top bus to celebrate the country's first major football trophy in 44 years.

The 69-year-old coach Luis Aragones and goalkeeper Iker Casillas were the first off the plane, marked “Campeones” (Champions), after it touched down at Madrid's airport on a flight from Innsbruck, Austria, at around 7:40pm (1740GMT).

The two lifted aloft the cup, won in Vienna on Sunday with a 1-0 defeat of Germany in the Euro 2008 final, to the cheers of supporters gathered at the airport.

“I am a bit emotional today,” Aragones said in a brief comments to reporters.

The players, wearing the team's red shirts, boarded the red open-top bus, which traveled into Madrid watched by tens of thousands of fans, still recovering from a night of wild revelry.

The players, who celebrated their victory in a Vienna nightclub Sunday, will also be received Tuesday morning by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at his Moncloa Palace office. Spaniards celebrated until dawn Monday in a nationwide fiesta.

Police said they made 52 arrests for acts of vandalism or public disorder in the capital, where a man was found dead in a pool of blood after apparently falling over drunk and hitting his head.

Emergency services said a man was also taken to hospital with a fractured skull, among some 90 people treated by medics, mostly for fainting and minor injuries.

Police said 65,000 people watched the match live on giant television screens in the central Plaza Colon, where chants of “Viva Espana” and “Champions” rang out amid a cacophony of klaxons, firecrackers, drum beats and car horns at the final whistle.

Spain's Cuatro television channel reported a record 17.69 million viewers were watching when Liverpool striker Fernando Torres scored the only goal.

“Spain has gone crazy,” said the top-selling daily El Pais.

“Finally!” screamed the Catalan daily Publico in a massive double-page headline.

“Spain conquers Europe and opens a new era in Spanish football,” said Catalan sports daily Mundo Deportivo.

“The best team won the tournament and with a more beautiful style of football than any other,” the sports daily AS said in an editorial.

“The team reached the summit of European football with a generation of young players … who have swept away the curses of the past and announced a new era full of hope,” it said El Pais.

Spain last lifted the European trophy in 1964 with victory over the former USSR in what was its only previous triumph at a major tournament.

A win against Italy last week ended what was seen as a “curse”, in which Spain had lost three times on penalties in the quarter-finals of major competitions, and on the same date, June 22. In Thursday's semi-final, they demolished Russia 3-0.


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