Rapturous welcome for World Cup winners Spain

2010-07-13 07:54

Spain’s victorious World Cup squad returned to a heroes’ welcome in Madrid with hundreds of thousands of fans cheering the team as they paraded through the capital’s streets on an open top bus.

People chanted “Campeones! Campeones! Campeones!” and waved red and gold Spanish flags at the players as the black bus crawled along a roughly 8km route through the city’s main thoroughfares yesterday amid scorching temperatures.

Fans waved at the players from balconies while others climbed on trees to get a better view of the 23-man squad which won the World Cup for the first time in Spain’s history with a 1-0 extra-time defeat of the Netherlands on Sunday.

“We can speak of there being several hundred thousand people,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said, while public television TVE estimated that more than one million people had turned out for the celebration.

Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas waved a Spanish flag with a black bull on it as the bus passed the central Cibeles fountain, while Barcelona midfielder Xavi simulated throwing the trophy at the jubilant crowd.

Air force fighter jets flew overhead leaving the Spanish colours streaked in the sky.

The parade ended at the esplanade near the riverside Puente del Rey, where the festivities continued officially until midnight.

“I want to congratulate from the bottom of my heart these 23 players for this victory but behind them they had the united force of all Spaniards,” Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said at a reception for the players at his official residence ahead of the victory parade.

“They won this trophy but it belongs to all Spaniards and it is a win also for all players from previous generations who tried to win it. They won because they were the best, because they played as a team and they played cleanly.”

Spain won the 2008 European Championships but had never even reached a World Cup final before. Until this year the best Spain had managed was the quarter-finals.

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, who scored the winning goal against the Netherlands just four minutes before the final whistle, presented the prime minister with a red team jersey signed by all the players.

“Thank you for the welcome, I am very proud to be a part of this team and this little trophy is for everyone,” Iniesta said at the reception after earlier thanking a German octopus for predicting the Spanish victory.

Before meeting with Zapatero, Spain’s King Juan Carlos also hosted a reception for the squad at his palace in Madrid where he thanked the team for making “our dreams a reality”.

“Thank you champions, on behalf of all of Spain and all Spaniards,” said Juan Carlos who did not travel to South Africa as he is recovering from lung surgery.

“This is a well-deserved triumph for an exceptional team.”

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