The Spanish players pose with the Euro 2008 trophy at Madrid’s Barajas Airport.
MADRID — The victorious Spanish national side arrived home from Euro 2008 to a heroes’ welcome last night, as around 100,000 jubilant Spaniards crammed into Madrid’s Plaza de Colon to greet them. The team’s private plane — decorated with the word “Campeones” — left Innsbruck at 5pm local time and landed at Madrid’s Barajas Airport at around 7:40pm. Coach Luis Aragonés and captain Iker Casillas were the first to appear with the Henri Delaunay trophy.
Many fans were at the airport, and thousands more lined the streets, as the team made their way through the capital aboard an open-top bus, the sides of which were emblazoned with a roja shirt and the words “¡España Siempre!” Spain’s players were dressed in their red shirts, with the exception of Sergio Ramos, who chose this moment to remember Antonio Puerta, the young Sevilla defender who collapsed and died during a game last summer. As the bus arrived in Plaza de Colon, squeezing between people deliriously waving Spanish flags, fans began to sing (to the tune of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”) “Fer-nan-do Tor-res, la-la-la la-laa-laaa!” On a specially constructed stage, outgoing coach Aragonés took the microphone: “I have the best team in the world!” he declared. Iker Casillas then led the usual rendition of Queen’s “We Are The Champions”.
Fans in Madrid’s Plaza de Colon greet their heroes.
The following day, the more formally attired European Champions enjoyed a reception at the royal Zarzuela gardens. King Juan Carlos saved most praise for outgoing coach Aragonés, apologizing for not having a cape for him to wear. Queen Sofia, Prince Felipe, Princess Letizia and Infanta Elena were also excited to greet Spain’s winning team, as they posed for photos together with the trophy. The players later met with Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
Spain coach Luis Aragonés presents the trophy to the royal family.
Since Spain’s European success on Sunday, there has been some talk about this triumph unifying the the country by uniting its various political regions, putting an end to the division which dominates Spanish society and football. I doubt this will happen. My friends in Barcelona — Catalans and Barça fans — were hoping for a German victory on Sunday night. I’m sure they agree that it will take more than a simple football team to make people forget years of cultural oppression, and give up a fight for political and economic independence which has been going on for decades.
An official photograph of the European Champions and the Spanish royal family in the Zarzuela gardens.