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Millions line streets of Argentina’s capital to welcome World Cup winners home

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BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Argentinians celebrating their nation’s third World Cup victory, in the capital Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 20, 2022. (Diego Radames - Anadolu Agency)
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Dec 21, 2022 - 09:15 AM

BUENOS AIRES (AA) – Millions of people flooded the streets of Argentina’s capital Tuesday to welcome home their World Cup champions.

As the team bus slowly meandered southwards towards the center of Buenos Aires heavily escorted by security forces, droves of ecstatic fans headed towards it on the motorway.

Others dressed in the blue and white of Argentina’s soccer jersey carrying flags, wearing faceprint and blowing vuvuzela horns as they lined the streets close to the iconic Obelisk monument, a traditional spot where Argentina’s passionate football fans gather to celebrate national and club team victories.

“Today I’m very happy. It’s a wonderful gift for all Argentines,” said Francisco Giordano, a 32-year-old Boca Juniors and Argentina national team fan celebrating with a group of friends.

He described the celebrations as the uniting of people of all ages and from all walks of life to welcome La Albiceleste’s victory.

“There is no distinction when it comes to political parties. We are all united for a sole reason, which is the third World Cup (won by Argentina) and (Lionel) Messi, who has generated something immense in Argentina,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“We need it for the situation in the country,” said Giordano, referring to Argentina’s deep economic crisis and high inflation, which have hit many in the country hard.

“It’s something the country needed,” echoed 25-year-old Sofia Nelle, who works in the petroleum sector. “The national team is everything for us, and now with the World Cup — it’s something we had been waiting for for a long time.

“For those of us under 40 years old who didn’t experience (Argentina’s World Cup victory in) 1986 and couldn’t watch (football legend Diego) Maradona, we were able to see Messi,” she told Anadolu Agency.

Street vendors sold replica jerseys, while the smell and smoke from barbecued meats lingered in the air.

“It’s a dream. I’ve never experienced anything like this!” said Gabriela Juliana, who works at a pizzeria.

“We suffered a lot, but thankfully we won! I’m happy,” she said alongside her family of 15 at home.

Juliana, who was carrying her nephew in her arms, underscored that performances by Lionel Messi, Angel Di María and Dibu Martinez inspired the side to victory.

“They played amazingly together! I’m so happy for the group,” she told Anadolu Agency.

Passionate football fans jostled for the best views around the Obelisk, climbing traffic lights, bus shelters and the large green bush cut into the letters BA near the Obelisk which stand for Buenos Aires.

“It is a moment that all of Argentina was hoping for very anxiously,” said Lautaro Esposito, a 24-year-old data analyst.

With fans dancing, banging drums and embracing, Esposito said “we have come here all together to see the national team, who are the deserved champions,” adding that Messi has given his all for the national side.

“You have to be here to experience it — to live it, to be Argentine. It’s something you can’t explain. This is the biggest thing that could happen in the country. There’s nothing greater than this,” said Inaki Muro, a 22-year-old music producer.

“Just imagine — I’ve never seen Argentina as world champions. It’s the first time in 24 years, and I’m fortunate,” he told Anadolu Agency, adding the memory will be “tattooed in his soul for life” and live in the memories of his grandchildren one day.

As an Argentine Air Force plane passed overhead, he said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni and Messi have been vindicated following criticism by some.

Melina Ayelen Villarroel, 23, attended the large-scale celebrations with her six-month-old baby clasped tightly to her.

“We’re here because we want to experience this beautiful moment,” she told Anadolu agency. “It’s something crazy.”

As Argentina had to dig deep and show resilience on the field in order to lift the World Cup, Villarroel admitted “there’s been a lot of nerves, a lot of emotion.”

As a big fan of local club River Plate who first took her child to the monumental stadium at two months old, she said the performances by former River Plate players Enzo Perez and Julian Alvarez helped the side, and “now they’re in the country realizing their dreams”

Away from the crowds in the shade a few blocks from the center, Federico Castro, a 22-year-old student was cooling off with a few friends.

“I’m here to celebrate and support the victory of Argentina’s national team,” said Castro, who had donned Argentina’s 1998 home jersey.

Castro said he went crazy when Argentina won the final on Sunday.

“It has been 36 years since we were last winners,” he said, paying tribute to the “master” Scaloni, who has lifted the Copa America and the Finalissima in the last two years.

“I like the fact that Scaloni banked on youth for this World Cup,” said Castro, insisting “there’s humility” with Argentina’s latest team.

Argentina have long waited for a World Cup success as they had last won the tournament in 1978 and 1986.

On Sunday, Lionel Messi-led Argentina beat France 4-2 on penalties in Qatar to bag the nation’s third World Cup title in its history.

*Can Erözden in Ankara contributed to this story.

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