Viva España Spain Celebrates First-Ever World Cup Title

It had been 60 years since Spain found any kind of success at the World Cup, and that was just a fourth place finish. On Sunday, though, the team beat Holland 1:0, sending the country into a frenzy of celebration.


By in Madrid

The explosion of joy was as immediate as it was passionate. Almost before the ball off the right foot of Spain's Andres Iniesta hit the back of the net, the tens of thousands of fans gathered on Plaza de Colón broke into frenetic dancing. Thousands of national flags waved above the masses, chanting "Viva España" and blowing on their vuvuzelas. 1:0! 1:0! The shrieking of the commentator could no longer be heard.

The crowd pushed over the barricade and swarmed the fountain in the center of the square, unconcerned about the few minutes remaining in the game. Spain was world champion -- finally.

A few minutes later, gold confetti rained down on the Spanish team in Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg. In Madrid, fans sprayed each other with beer. Some 250,000 fans had gathered on Plaza de Colón to cheer on their side from afar. Some cried with joy. All joined the chants of "campeones."

It is a moment the country had been waiting for for decades. The country's national team had never before won the cup. One has to go back 60 long years for the last time the team even played in a semifinal.

Decked Out in Red and Yellow

Given the long wait, the 117 minutes of playing time before Iniesta's goal was but a minor delay for the ensuing fiesta. Tamara Flores and her friends -- decked out in red and yellow skirts, red and yellow flowers in their hair and face streaked with red and yellow stripes -- were among the partiers at the fan mile. The 17-year-old chanted "Viva Espana" through a megaphone as well as "hermoso!" to bare chested men who caught her fancy. The 1.5 liter bottle of red wine and cola the girls brought with them was empty before the game even started.

After the match, the Paseo de Recolotos in central Madrid was packed with partiers, some wearing outlandish costumes and bright face paint. One man from Barcelona was carrying his five-month-old baby in his arms: He hadn't wanted to miss the party in Madrid so he piled his wife and child into a train on Sunday morning at 4 a.m.

Even before the match started, Spanish fans were sure they would win. After all, Paul the octopus had predicted as much. The cephalopod in Germany predicted every single one of Germany's World Cup matches correctly -- including the team's semifinal defeat to Spain -- as well as Spain's final victory over Holland. Paul has become a major star on the Iberian Peninsula, on par with Iniesta, David Villa and the rest of the national team. Indeed, octopus stuffed toys and even masks are a big hit in Madrid these days. One sign on Sunday evening had a picture of an octopus with the script "Pulpo Paul Forever."

'Our Era'

Still, as recently as the middle of June, few in Spain believed that their boys would come this far. On June 16, in the team's very first match of this World Cup, Spain lost to Switzerland in a shocking upset. The European championship victory from two years ago seemed as if it would remain an aberration on Spain's record of international tournament flops.

On Sunday night, though, all of the jitters from the preceding weeks were forgotten. Fireworks lit up the Plaza Cibeles, drum beats filled the air, thousands danced along deep into the night. Tamara and her friends chanted "campeones" one last time before disappearing into the masses.

On Puerta del Sol, fans managed to climb up on top of the nine-meter (30-foot) high statue of King Carl III on horseback. From their vantage point they could look directly at an advertising posters of a sporting goods company covering the side of a nearby building. Anres Iniesta, the star of the final, graces the poster. Underneath, it says, "This is our year. This is our era."


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