Tue, Jul 13, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Delirious Spain celebrates first World Cup win

PAINT THE TOWN REDA crowd of more than 250,000 watched the World Cup final on giant screens in Madrid, with another 75,000 turning out in Barcelona

AFP , MADRID

Fans celebrate in Madrid on Sunday after Spain won the World Cup final.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Millions danced, cheered and set off fireworks in an all-night football induced delirium after Spain’s first soccer World Cup triumph.

The center of Madrid became a sea of red and gold — the national colors — as huge crowds poured onto the streets to celebrate Spain’s nailbiting 1-0 extra-time win over the Netherlands with a late goal from Andres Iniesta.

“Iniesta Presidente! Iniesta Presidente!” chanted one group of fans as they marched along the center of the Gran Via, the Spanish capital’s main thoroughfare in the early hours of yesterday.

Others imitated bullfighters and waved large Spanish flags over passing cars while chanting “Ole!”

A crowd estimated by Spanish media at more than 250,000 watched the match on giant screens in a fan park in a 1km stretch of the street.

“We are very proud and very happy, I thought it would go to penalties, Iniesta saved us. We deserved it after winning the European championship in 2008,” said 18-year-old Raul as passing cars honked their horns.

Some 75,000 people watched the match in the Catalan capital of Barcelona at an outdoor fan park and some 20,000 people stayed at the site to celebrate Spain’s historic win, police said in a statement.

Nearly 14 million people — out of a population of about 45 million — watched Spain defeat the Netherlands on television, according to ratings firm Barlovento Comunicacion.

“All of Spain experienced last night how a lifelong dream became reality,” daily newspaper El Pais wrote in an editorial.

Several groups were formed on Facebook calling on the government to declare yesterday a national holiday to allow fans to recover from the festivities.

“This has been an epic match, I suffered like never before,” Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told Cadena Ser radio after the match.

“Champions,” wrote newspaper ABC on its front page below a photo of Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas holding up the World Cup trophy, surrounded by his teammates.

The World Cup win comes as Spain struggles to revive its economy and reduce its unemployment rate of around 20 percent, the second highest in the 27-nation EU.

“The national squad is a metaphor for what Spain could be if we are willing to apply the same criteria which led to its success,” wrote ABC in an editorial.

Sports daily AS said on its front page that Iniesta “scored the most important goal in our history” while sports daily Marca said his goal “lifted Spanish football to the highest possible level.”

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