- Kuwait Times Extra
MADRID: Spain’s conquering football heroes brought the Euro 2012 Cup home yesterday for a national fiesta big enough to chase away the clouds of economic crisis, at least for a while. After touching down in Madrid-Barajas airport, captain Iker Casillas in a red T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Champions of Europe” stood at the door of the Iberia Airbus A319 beside team coach Vicente del Bosque.
Goalkeeper Casillas held the huge silver trophy aloft before descending the steps ahead of the squad, hailed as heroes after a 4-0 thrashing of Italy delivered an historic third straight international title. Players were to be congratulated by King Juan Carlos before touring Madrid in an open-top bus heading to a victory party in the central Plaza de Cibeles, where a huge stage and video screens have been set up.
“Satisfied and happy for the success. It was difficult and we did it,” Casillas, hailed as a key ingredient in Spain’s triumph, told reporters at the airport where their plane was met by two fire engines.
“Happy because people enjoyed it,” he added. Forward Cesc Fabregas admitted to being a bit tired. “We have been celebrating, we are very happy. The best is yet to come,” he said.
Midfielder Xabi Alonso said the team was ready to celebrate. “We deserved to take the title,” he said. “We came with ambition and we still have strength.
“We’re very good, very happy, keen to get here and enjoy it with the people.” A knot of fans in the airport joined the 50 or so journalists there for the arrival of the plane flying Spanish flags from the cockpit windows and declaring in words painted on the craft: “Proud of our squad”.
“They didn’t just make history with the triple crown but also they scored four goals against Italy, which no-one does,” said a 28-year-old fan who gave his name as Juan.
“This victory boosts morale a bit, at least for two or three days we won’t think of the crisis,” he said. A red-and-yellow sea of fans had swamped central Madrid in an all-night party before their return.
Young and old, Spaniards burst into chants of “Champions!”, detonated bangers, danced in fountains, blared car horns and flew the national flag in their hands, through car windows and off the back of motorbikes.
Tens of thousands of beer-soaked fans packed the Plaza de Cibeles, adorned with a stone fountain of the goddess of nature on a chariot hauled by lions.
In Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, a dozen people leapt into the fountain and splashed water over scores of others dancing in joy. Goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata on Sunday sparked a crescendo of joy across Spain.
Some 15,481,000 people, or 83.4 percent of the television audience, saw Spain’s win in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev-the greatest audience recorded in Spain for a football match, industry figures showed.
The victory also sparked a new sports-related record for tweets per second, Twitter said. Sunday’s final match resulted in 16.5 million tweets from fans around the world and total global traffic on the platform peaked at 15,358 tweets per second during the fourth goal, a new sports-related record on Twitter, the company said.
Success on the field gave succour to a nation in crisis, said the leading daily El Pais, with the economy in recession, the jobless rate at 24.4 percent, and stricken banks struggling to stay afloat.
“Spain’s footballing successes give indirect relief, if only ephemeral, to the destructive consequences of recession and unemployment from which the Spanish people are suffering,” it said.
“Football is not a substitute for good political management nor for economic prosperity, nor should we ask it to be, but it can inject a dose of self-esteem in difficult times,” the paper said.
“There are many reasons to claim this self-esteem.” Tens of thousands of people had been glued to giant screens in an official fanzone outside Real Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium as Spain added to their Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup titles. Others swilled beers, cheering and gasping in bars across the nation as the match unfolded.-AFP
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