Riotous celebrations spread across Spain on Sunday after the national football team won its first World Cup when Andres Iniesta scored an extra-time goal in a 1-0 win over The Netherlands.

An estimated 300,000 people forming a sea of red and yellow packed Madrid’s downtown Paseo de Recoletos boulevard to watch the final from Johannesburg on giant TV screens and erupted at the final whistle as Spain became world and European champions.

“It had to be (Andres) Iniesta, the field marshal of Spanish football,” said the 19—year—old Marcos Domenec.

The celebrations were easily the biggest ever held in living memory in Spain.

Fireworks lit up the city sky as people herded out onto the streets to celebrate. Television shots showed exuberant partying in jammed town squares across the country, from Zaragoza in the northeast to Seville in the southwest.

Spain, long tagged a perennial underachiever before winning the 2008 European Championship to end a 44—year title drought, had never before gone past the quarterfinals. The team finished fourth at the 1950 World Cup when the playoff system was different.

A deafening roar rose from Madrid, including the sound of blaring vuvuzuela horns imported from South Africa, when captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup trophy at Soccer City.

Tens of thousands of people had put up with near 40 degree temperatures Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) from early in the day to claim the best positions before the giant screens in major plazas in towns and cities.

In Madrid, emergency ambulance services treated dozens of people who had fainted.

A river of people swarmed down Recoletos boulevard and swung up the Alcala and Gran Via streets blocking making it impossible for cars to get by.

Marta Seco, 22, was overcome with emotion.

“This is the greatest sporting event in the history of the country,” she shouted with tears in her eyes.

One banner amid the masses in downtown Madrid read “Octopus Paul, Forever!” with a crudely drawn picture of the octopus from Germany who had correctly forecast Spain’s victory.

Traffic jams emerged spontaneously throughout the city as motorists took to the streets, blaring their horns and waving Spain’s yellow—and—red flag from windows.

In Alcorcon, a working class neighborhood of Madrid, fans watching from a patio bar whooped in joy and yelled “Spain! Spain!” as they danced on bar chairs and hugged each other. Others yelled “Yes! Yes! The Cup is now ours!”

The night sky of suburb was lit up by fireworks and the bar patrons toasted each other with beer and sangria on a sweltering summer night, dancing in the streets and dodging firecrackers tossed by other fans.

“It’s just amazing, I almost don’t believe it,” said a beaming Feliciano Hernandez, a 25—year—old electrician. “I’m so proud, totally happy and living for the moment and not thinking about anything else right now.”

Nacho Moreno, a 23—year—old waiter, danced in the street waving the Spanish flag he had kept wrapped around his head for luck during the game as cars drove by, honking their horns in salute. He said he would probably drink until dawn to celebrate.

“It’s phenomenal! Spain won. I was real nervous but I knew it was possible,” Moreno said.

Daily El Mundo’s website championed the win with the headline- “Spain! Spain! Spain!” while ABC daily headlined its online frontpage- “Champions of the World!”

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, about 100,000 fans had crammed into a central Amsterdam square to watch the game.

“I feel very sad actually for the Netherlands. It is tragic, yes,” said Olivier Denboor. “I imagined until the last minute that Netherlands could win.”

In The Hague, fans wept and hugged at the final whistle and tossed handfuls of orange confetti into the air.

“It’s such a deception. We were so close. I feel empty, said 33—year—old shopworker Sander Lubbers.

Arend—jan Meijer tried to put on a brave face.

“It’s a great shame, but Spain was the better team. It’s only football,” he added, as he headed for home kicking his way through piles of plastic beer cups.

At the North Sea Jazz festival, singer Stevie Wonder tried to lift Dutch spirits.

“Holland is still the winner,” Wonder said after one of his songs. “We don’t cry, we don’t cry.”

Keywords: FIFA World Cup


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