Millions of jubilant fans turned out to welcome Lionel Messi-led Argentina’s World Cup winners home on Tuesday, but most were left disappointed when huge crowds forced the cancellation of an open-air bus parade in favor of a hastily arranged helicopter tour. Throngs of jubilant fans cheered on their heroes along every meter of the planned 30-kilometer parade route from a suburb of Buenos Aires to the center of the capital, but this made progress steadily slow.
The bus traveled for nearly five hours to celebrate the crowd’s thrilling penalty shoot-out victory over France in the World Cup final before the decision was made to swap the bus for a helicopter.
“It was impossible to stay on the ground because of the explosion of popular joy,” said Gabriela Cerruti, spokeswoman for the presidency, on Twitter.
That meant many fans, including the largest congregation at Buenos Aires’ iconic Obelisk monument that has been the epicenter of sporting celebrations for decades, did not get to see their idols in the flesh.
“I’m a little sad that we couldn’t see them,” said Marta Acosta, 35, who went to town at 5:00 a.m. from a neighborhood in the south.
The president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA), Claudio Tapia, blamed the police for the decision to cancel the victory parade.
“They don’t let us go to greet all the people of the Obelisco,” Tapia said on Twitter.
“The same security agencies that escorted us are not allowing us to continue. Thousands of apologies on behalf of all champion players. It’s a shame.”
Dressed in blue and white national team t-shirts and waving flags, revelers sang, danced and set off fireworks throughout the day, camped out overnight to secure spots on the parade route.
But three hours after the start of the procession, the bus barely covered a third of the planned route.
Finally, they abandoned the vehicle.
Instead, Messi, coach Lionel Scaloni and midfielder Rodrigo De Paul carried the World Cup trophy in a helicopter to tour the main parade grounds, including the Obelisk.
Messi and winger Angel Di Maria later boarded a private plane to their hometown of Rosario, along with striker Paulo Dybala.
While Messi and Di Maria boarded another helicopter to take them to the private neighborhood where they own their homes, Dybala continued to his hometown of Cordoba, an AFP photographer said.
Back in Buenos Aires, many continued to celebrate but for some fans, the short circuit of the party was inevitable.
“Only someone who doesn’t know what football means to Argentines would think that this wasn’t an option,” Roman Garcia, 38, told AFP.
An estimated five to six million people lined the parade route, a government source said.
Television footage showed two men trying to jump from a bridge onto the players’ bus. One succeeded but the other failed and fell into a pile of people.
As the evening wore on, minor scuffles broke out between fans — some of whom were clearly drunk — and police who were forced to evict a small group around the Obelisk, as AFP reporters witnessed.
They threw stones and rubber bullets. The TN network said 13 people were arrested and eight officers were injured in the melee.
Authorities did not immediately confirm those figures. But city officials said earlier that 16 people had been hospitalized during the day.
After arriving home from Qatar in the early hours of the morning, the players spent a little rest at the training center of the Argentine Football Association, in the Ezeiza district of the capital.
Tuesday was declared a holiday for the celebrations.
“This trophy we won is also for everyone who didn’t win the previous World Cups we played in, like Brazil in 2014,” Messi said on social media, referring to the team that lost 1-0 to Germany. title game eight years ago.
Argentina won the final in Qatar 4-2 on penalties after a 3-3 draw to claim their first world title in 36 years.
It helped Messi, 35, crown his record-breaking career with football’s biggest prize as he produced one of the greatest World Cup finals, scoring a first-half penalty and netting again in extra time.
In doing so, he emulated his predecessor as Argentina’s idol, Diego Maradona, who propelled the country to its second world title in Mexico 1986 with a series of match-winning displays.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)
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