The Euro 2008 final was here at last and the whole world — and universe — came together on Sunday in Vienna to celebrate the culmination of three weeks of soccer, ahead of the Germany-Spain match.
The old town was drowned in a sea of red, gold and black, in which German and Spanish fans could hardly be told apart.
Some boasted hats, wigs and face paint in the German black-red-gold, while others waved red and gold flags with giant black bulls.
“You have to look at their faces and then you can figure out if they’re German or Spanish,” said Matts Landmark, a Swedish fan wearing the national blue and yellow shirt.
A distinctly Hawaiian feel descended on the fans as temperatures hovered around 30慢 and the sun streamed down, with flags used as pareos and flower garlands tied in the hair. Fashion-conscious yet patriotic, women showed off their colors with creativity, wearing dresses made of flags, combining head-to-toe outfits in the national colors — a red skirt with a bright yellow top — or with a pair of red high heels and a yellow belt.
Fans of those teams already eliminated from the tournament made sure their country was still represented however, as a few Poles, Swiss and Portuguese mixed with the crowds of Germans and Spanish.
“People come up to us in the street and say we should have been here. It would’ve been good,” said John Bekavac, a Croatian from Adelaide, Australia, who traveled to Austria with his two brothers specially for the Euro.
Nearby, a Greek woman from Athens excitedly waved her blue and white flag.
“We are the champions and we’re going pass the trophy tonight to whoever wins,” said Anastasia Panaretos, dismissing Greece’s elimination in the group stages.
“We cannot be the champions every year,” she said cheerfully.
A couple from Vancouver, Canada, came to Vienna, while traveling through Europe, to experience the mood during the final.
“It’s very fun, I’m for Spain so I got the flag,” Sujin said pointing to the Spanish flag on her cheek, while her husband Desmond took photos of the crowd.
“The atmosphere is sensational, it’s the first time we’re hosting such a big event and the atmosphere is phenomenal,” said Manfred Lasinger, an Austrian fan wearing his team’s colors.
Austria was relatively slow in capturing soccer fever, with fan zones complaining about poor attendances at the beginning of the tournament. But all this was forgotten in Vienna on Sunday as locals and tourists, young and old, women and men, soccer fans or not, took part in a heaving party around St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
“Obviously, the atmosphere gets better as you approach the final or the decisive games and today is absolutely great,” Lasinger said.
A group of Spaniards wandered around dressed as cows, bulls or even Bugs Bunny, while a tall German blond in a pale orange negligee with very hairy legs — Frank from Mannheim, on a stag party trip with his friends — sauntered down the street.
Even Darth Vader joined the party. Accosted by a few German fans offering him a beer, the Dark Lord removed his mask, revealing the street artist underneath, who took a swig from the bottle before climbing back up on his pedestal.
Meanwhile, police turned a blind eye to the vendors hawking T-shirts, scarves and hats on the street, much of it illegal merchandise.
“Today especially, on the last day of the championship, it’s tolerated,” one officer said benignly.
A perfect illustration of the mood in the Austrian capital hours before the final clash of Euro 2008.
“It could be a sad evening tonight, but we’ll celebrate anyway. The Spanish fans are fantastic,” one German supporter said.