Fri, May 29, 2009
Sports > Soccer

Triumphant Barca stars feted in victory parade

2009-05-29 09:53:52 GMT2009-05-29 17:53:52 (Beijing Time)

Barcelona's players drive through the streets during celebrations of Barcelona's victory in their UEFA Champions League final in Roma against Manchester United, in Barcelona. Barcelona won 2-0.(Agencies)

Tens of thousands of ecstatic fans cheered Barcelona's Champions League heroes during a victory parade through the city centre in an open-top bus Thursday.

Leo Messi, Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry and their team-mates flew back from Rome after a stunning 2-0 win over Manchester United on Wednesday -- the third part of a unique treble including the Spanish league and cup titles.

The players and coach Pep Guardiola then rode through the city in a open-top bus decked out in the club's royal blue and burgundy colours and marked "Champions," dancing and waving to the fans.

The crowd, many of whom waved the red and yellow flag of the Catalonia region, chanted "Ole, Ole, Champions!" and "Barca, Barca and Barca!" as the bus headed through the city's main thoroughfares for the club's Camp Nou stadium.

Cameroonian Eto'o, who scored one of the goals in the final, stood at the front, blowing kisses to the crowd.

"Eto'o, Africa says thank you," said one banner carried by a Senegalese man who said his name was Yatma.

"Since he (Eto'o) came here we (Africans) are better treated," he said.

Two little girls, aged six and eight, both wearing Messi strips, were disappointed that they could not see the Argentine star, who scored the second goal.

"Messi isn't there, Papa," they cried, who tried to console them. "He'll be on the other side," he said.

One jubilant Catalan, Alfons, said: "I lived in Buenos Aires building motorways, just as Messi helped lift us up on the road to glory." Messi, he insisted, was a Catalan.

Dozens of youths also clambered onto the Colombus monument, at one end of the famous Las Ramblas avenue, to await the team.

The joyful scenes contrasted with those in the early hours of Thursday when police in the city arrested 119 people and more than 150 people were injured as victory celebrations descended into riots.

Around 100,000 people spilled onto the streets of the Catalan capital after the victory.

But the carnival atmosphere turned ugly after midnight when youths began clashing with police around Las Ramblas.

Youths hurled bottles as they tried to storm through metal barricades keeping a mob back from shops, prompting a surge by baton-wielding riot officers.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to control rioters, who damaged lampposts, telephone kiosks and bus stops, media reports said.

Terrified passers-by cowered behind walls as the clashes intensified.

Spain's TVE public television said one of its cameramen was among those hurt.

The statement said police had issued "repeated warnings" to the rioters.

The celebrations had started peacefully as thousands of joyous fans, many draped in the dark red and blue of their club, let off fireworks and honked horns.

Many fans mocked rivals Real Madrid, which ended the season trophyless -- Barca's own fate for the past two seasons until new coach Pep Guardiola rejuvenated the team this year.

And in the Spanish capital, Catalans jumped into the fountain in the Plaza Cibeles, the traditional site for celebrations by Real supporters.

Barca fans had already twice savoured success in recent days after their team won the Spanish title and lifted the Spanish Cup.

"Champions! (three times)", headlined the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia.

Barca and their supporters have experienced "the greatest night in their history," it said.

The nation's top-selling paper, El Pais, said Barcelona now has "a legendary triple crown" and is "at the top of the world."


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