Argentina’s World Cup heroes airlifted in helicopters as street party overflows

  • A huge crowd waits around the city’s central obelisk
  • The open top bus parade was halted
  • Players are flying over the route in helicopters

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 20 (Reuters) – Argentina’s World Cup heroes were forced to abandon an open bus parade in Buenos Aires on Tuesday as millions of cheering fans took to the streets to silence the city, including Lionel Messi and his team. Spouses flew in helicopters to complete the celebrations.

The victorious players in Sunday’s World Cup final in Qatar were unable to reach the central obelisk monument as planned because the route was completely blocked by a crowd of what local media estimated was four million people.

The scheduled eight-hour journey was cut short due to security fears, with footage on social media showing some fans trying to jump onto the team bus as it passed under the bridge. The players were transferred from their parade bus and onto the helicopters.

“The world champions are flying the entire route in helicopters because the explosion of joy made it impossible to continue on land,” presidential spokeswoman Gabriela Cerruti wrote on Twitter.

Television images showed people across the city, including around the obelisk and on surrounding highways, trying to catch a glimpse of their returning champions.

“It’s crazy, it’s amazing, it’s the best thing that can happen to you in life,” said Matias Gomez, a 25-year-old metalworker.

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“It was an overwhelming joy to see all these happy people, all together, with each other, holding hands, giving each other hugs, kisses. We are all united today.”

The team arrived at the Aziza airport early on Tuesday morning. Although it was around 3 a.m. local time (0600 GMT), thousands of people were waiting with banners, flags and flares and cheering as Messi and his teammates ended the country’s 36-year wait to win the World Cup.

By noon, millions of people had already gathered in downtown Buenos Aires, with major roads closed for the march. People held banners of Messi and late icon Diego Maradona, played instruments or climbed lampposts or bus stops.

Roads began to clear after players took to the skies in helicopters, some disappointed not to see the team.

Argentina’s capital was in party mode after Sunday’s dramatic victory over France in the final in Qatar, helping to mask economic woes in the South American nation struggling with the world’s highest inflation rates.

The penalty shootout victory made the country world champions for the first time since Maradona lifted the trophy in 1986 and third time overall.

The government declared Tuesday a national holiday to allow fans to celebrate the win.

“I celebrate how people took to the streets to pay tribute to our national team,” president Alberto Fernandez posted on Twitter. “Millions of Argentines took to the streets in an extraordinary December that will remain in our hearts forever.”

‘I Can’t Cry Anymore’

As the open-top bus snaked its way through the city, the players danced with fans surrounding the bus. Police had to hold back the crowd to allow the vehicle to slowly travel towards the center of town.

But finally he could not go further.

“They will not allow us to greet all the people who were at the obelisk. The security agents who escorted us will not allow us to go forward,” Chiqui Tapia, president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA), tweeted.

“A thousand apologies on behalf of all champion players,” he said. “Thank you for so much love!! We are the top football nation in the world! The cup is back home.”

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Messi, 35, enhanced his reputation as one of the world’s greatest players with Argentina’s 4-2 victory over France on penalties after a 3-3 draw after extra time.

Although he plans to play a few more matches for the national team, he has said that this will be his last match at the World Cup.

Sometimes it feels like the whole country is partying all night from Sunday in the Southern Hemisphere summer, with cars regularly honking their horns to celebrate the joy of victory.

“There are people lying on the floor who got up straight from the last party to party,” said 25-year-old Elio Maisares, who celebrated in a city where everyone and everything was covered in white-and-blue. “Albiceleste”.

“Look at it all, look at everything painted in light blue and white, the roads, the highways, all the people rooting for Argentina,” he said.

“It’s really impressive, it’s unique, what a way to cry. I cried this morning, yesterday, the day before yesterday, I can’t cry anymore, it’s amazing!”

Reporting by Nicolas Misculin and Miguel Lo Bianco; Additional reporting by Horacio Soria in Buenos Aires and Adi Nair in Bangalore; Compiled by Peter Rutherford, Ken Ferris, Pritha Sarkar and Himani Sarkar

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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