MADRID - A roaring celebration rocked Spain on Sunday, with some 300,000 people in the capital’s downtown forming a sea of red and yellow in tribute to the nation’s first World Cup title.
The national flag and team colors were in full display on Paseo de Recoletos boulevard to watch the match live on gigantic screens.
Then, as the final whistle marked Spain’s 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in extra time, fireworks lit the city sky as people herded into the streets. Crowds began dancing and singing one of the team’s battle cries, “Let’s Get Them.” Television shots showed partying in jammed town squares across the country, from Zaragoza in the northeast to Seville in the southwest. The celebrations were easily the biggest in the country in living memory.
A roar rose from the city, and almost certainly across the nation, when goalkeeper Iker Casillas lifted the cup in South Africa. Spain, long tagged a perennial underachiever, had never before got beyond the World Cup quarterfinals.
In the Netherlands, the mood was funereal. Fans wept and hugged in The Hague at the final whistle and tossed of handfuls of orange confetti into the air that had been intended for a victory party.
“ “It’s such a deception. We were so close. I feel empty, said Sander Lubbers, a 33-year-old shopworker.
“It’s a great shame, but Spain was the better team.” said Arend-jan Meijer. It’s only football,” he added, as he headed for home kicking his way through piles of plastic beer cups.
In Madrid, the beer tasted better.
Vuvuzuela horns so typical of the matches in South Africa this World Cup, had droned throughout the city and car horns began to honk incessantly.
Tens of thousands put up with more than 100-degree heat from early in the day to get the best positions before the giant screens in major plazas in towns and cities. In Madrid, emergency ambulance services treated dozens of people who had fainted.
Spain’s biggest previous soccer triumph was in 2008 when it won the European Championship in Vienna, a feat that ended a 44-year drought between major titles and drew thousands onto the streets.
“It had to be (Andres) Iniesta, the field marshal of Spanish football,” said Marcos Domenec, 19, in reference Spain’s goalscorer.
Marta Seco, 22, was overcome with emotion. “This is the greatest sporting event in the history of the country,” she shouted with tears in her eyes.
Fans watching from a patio bar in a working class neighborhood of Madrid whooped in joy yelling “Spain! Spain”, danced on their bar chairs and hugged each other. Others yelled “Yes! Yes! The cup is now ours!”
The night sky of the Alcoron suburb lit up with fireworks and the bar patrons cheered each other with beer and sangria on a sweltering summer night, danced into the streets, dodging firecrackers tossed about by other fans.
“It’s just amazing, I almost don’t believe it,” said a beaming Feliciano Hernandez, a 25-year-old electrician. “I’m so proud, totally happy and living for the moment and not thinking about anything else right now.” Nacho Moreno danced in the street waving the Spanish flag he had kept wrapped around his head for luck during the game as cars drove by, honking their horns in salute. He said he would probably drink until dawn to celebrate.
“It’s phenomenal! Spain won. I was real nervous but I knew it was possible,” said the 23-year-old waiter