Hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate World Cup champion Argentina at home

Hundreds of thousands of fans descended into the streets of Buenos Aires Tuesday, eager to catch a glimpse of the open top bus carrying the Argentine national soccer team that won one of the greatest World Cup finals of all time as it headed to the capital to celebrate .

The bus left the Argentine Football Association headquarters outside the capital and was moving slowly as thousands lined the highway, many waving Argentine flags.

Team captain Lionel Messi and the rest of the players waved at fans from the bus as they carried the World Cup trophy aloft after securing the country’s third title and its first since 1986.

“This is madness, it’s indescribable,” Brian Andreassi, 23, said as he walked downtown wearing the team’s jersey. “There are no words.”

The World Cup and the success of the Messi-led squad has brought much-needed good news for a country that has been stuck in economic doldrums for years, is suffering one of the world’s highest inflation rates and where nearly 4-in-10 people live in poverty.

“There’s an immense union among all Argentines — unity, happiness. It’s as if you can breathe another air, there’s another energy in the air,” said Victoria Roldan. “My body and heart are about to burst.”

Carrying a World Cup replica, the 32-year-old was headed downtown with her sister, Mariana, as they tried to figure out the best spot to catch a glimpse of the team, and in particular, its captain.

“We’re going where they say Leo will be because we’re dying to see him,” Roldan said. “Seeing him with that immense smile, with those bright eyes filled with hope, it really fills our heart with joy and happiness. We’re very happy for this country to enjoy this happiness and I think that Leo has deserved it for years, and this was his moment.”

The players were all smiles as they watched the multitudes of fans gathered to see them, many trying to get as close as possible to the bus.

As rumors circulated about a change in the bus route, a sea of ​​people took over a highway where the team was set to pass on what was a scorching summer day.

Thousands had set up camp since early Tuesday morning at the Obelisk, the iconic Buenos Aires landmark that is the traditional site of celebrations. But as the number of people grew, it was unclear whether the bus would go there amid concern that it would not be able to pass safely.

National holiday

President Alberto Fernandez declared a national holiday Tuesday so the country could celebrate the World Cup victory.

Thousands of fans had lined up before dawn to welcome the team home from Qatar.

The players were all smiles as they descended from their plane in Ezeiza, outside Argentina’s capital, shortly before 3 am onto a red carpet. Messi was the first one out, carrying the World Cup, flanked by coach Lionel Scaloni, who put his arm around the captain as they walked past a sign that read, “Thank you, champions.”

The team was welcomed by rock band La Mosca singing “Muchachos,” a song that was written by a fan and became a popular unofficial anthem for Argentine fans at the World Cup in Qatar.

Several players, including Messi, could be seen singing the words to “Muchachos” as they boarded the bus taking them to the Argentine Football Association headquarters.

Throughout the trip, Messi held onto the World Cup as players waved to fans and often sang along with them. Surrounded by fans it took the bus an hour to travel the 11 kilometers from the airport to AFA headquarters, where the players were welcomed with fireworks.

The players slept at AFA headquarters before the day of celebration.

In the morning, Messi posted a photo on social media showing him hugging the World Cup next to him while he slept.

Live news coverage of flight

Before the team’s arrival, many had kept a close eye on the flight bringing the players home to celebrate. As the plane got closer to Argentine soil, almost 200,000 people were tracking its path online and news channels gave live coverage of the arrival.

Several players posted photos of the plane ride on social media. In one, Messi was shown holding the World Cup on the plane. Nicolas Tagliafico posted a photo of the World Cup buckled into an airplane seat as if it were just another passenger.

So far, there were no official plans for Fernandez, or any other political leaders, to take part in the celebrations despite earlier rumors the players would go to Government House, according to Security Minister Anibal Fernandez.

Fernandez retweeted several messages of congratulations for the World Cup victory from other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Thank you for this greeting President Putin,” Fernandez wrote on Twitter after a telephone call with the Russian leader. “Let the happiness that today unites Argentina with so many countries in the world serve as an example: Our societies need unity and peace.”

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