Riots mar Barca celebrations

2009-05-28 12:11
Barcelona fans celebrate at the Spanish Steps at the end of a UEFA Champions League final. (Pier Paolo Cito, AP)

Barcelona fans celebrate at the Spanish Steps at the end of a UEFA Champions League final. (Pier Paolo Cito, AP) (Pier Paolo Cito)

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Barcelona - Police in Barcelona made more than 100 arrests as victory celebrations after the Champions League final degenerated into riots early on Thursday, with dozens needing hospital treatment.

Around 100 000 people spilled onto the streets of the Catalan capital in the aftermath of Barcelona's 2-0 victory over Manchester United in Rome.

But while a carnival atmosphere initially prevailed, the mood turned ugly after midnight when youths began clashing with police around one of the city's main thoroughfares, Las Ramblas.

Youths hurled bottles as they tried to storm through metal barricades keeping a mob back from shops, prompting a surge by baton-wielding riot officers, who fired into the air.

Terrified passersby caught up in the violence had to cower behind walls as the clashes intensified.
In a statement, police said they had arrested 119 people for public order offences in the city and a total of 134 in the wider Catalan region.

A total of 153 people were also injured, said the statement. And while most of the injuries were minor, 23 needed hospital treatment.

Repeated warnings

RTVE public television said one of its cameraman was among those injured. The statement said that police had issued "repeated warnings" to the rioters.

Lampposts, telephone kiosks and bus stops were all badly damaged in the violence.

The celebrations had started peacefully as thousands of joyous fans, many draped in the dark red and blue of their club, let off fireworks and honked horns.

"Yes, yes, yes, the Cup is here," shouted supporters.

"I am so happy, we deserved this victory. we're going to stay out all night as long as the police don't move us on," said one young fan, Jordi, at the Canaletes fountain on the Ramblas, where fans traditionally celebrate.

Many fans mocked rivals Real Madrid, who ended the season trophyless - Barca's own fate for the past two seasons until this term under new coach Pep Guardiola.

'Champions! (three times)'

Several other towns in the Catalan region also celebrated, such as Tarragona, Gerona and Lleida.
And in the Spanish capital, Catalans jumped into the fountain in the Plaza Cibeles, the traditional site for celebrations by Real supporters.

Barca fans had already twice gorged on success in recent days after their team won the Spanish title and lifted the Spanish Cup.

"Champions! (three times)", headlined the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia.

Barca and their supporters have experienced "the greatest night in their history," it said.

The nation's top-selling paper, El Pais, said Barcelona now has "a legendary triple crown" and is "at the top of the world"
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero - a Barcelona supporter - hailed it as the "dream team" and predicted the country would now do the treble.

"We've won the European Cup, today the Champions League and now we will win the World Cup," a beaming Zapatero, who attended the final in Rome with King Juan Carlos, told Spanish television.

- SAPA

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