BUENOS AIRES: Thousands of fans lined up in the middle of the night to try to get a glimpse of the Argentina football team that won one of the greatest World Cup finals of all time ahead of what is scheduled to be a day of celebrations in Buenos Aires.
Members of the team, led by captain Lionel Messi, were all smiles as they descended from the plane in Ezeiza, right outside Argentina’s capital, shortly before 3am Tuesday onto a red carpet that had been rolled out for the squad.
Messi was the first player from the plane 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 players were welcomed by rock band La Mosca singing “Muchachos”, a song that was written by a fan to the tune of an old song by the band and became a popular unofficial anthem for Argentine fans at the World Cup in Qatar.
The newly crowned champion of the world boarded an open-top bus and several, including Messi, could be seen singing to the words of “Muchachos” while they waited for everyone to get on heading to the headquarters of the Argentine Football Association.
The bus moved at a snail’s pace as fans, many of whom were waving Argentine flags, swarmed the bus on a highway, eager for a glimpse of the players as law enforcement officers tried to keep them at bay.
The players will sleep at AFA headquarters for a few hours before boarding the bus later Tuesday that will take them to the Obelisk, the iconic Buenos Aires landmark that was a sea of people Sunday afternoon after the team won the country’s third World Cup, and its first since 1986.
President Alberto Fernández declared a national holiday Tuesday so the country could celebrate the victory.
The day after the streets of Argentina turned into colourful parties following the Sunday victory, many kept a close eye on the flight that brought 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.
In the afternoon, people started arriving at the airport and outside the AFA headquarters in hopes of getting a glimpse of the team.
Many were also already at the Obelisk, seemingly ready to spend the night there to ensure a prime spot for Tuesday’s festivities.