Argentina is in full-on party mode, with the capital Buenos Aires hosting one of the craziest victory celebrations in recent memory, following the team's thrilling World Cup final triumph. Millions of fans flooded the streets of the capital to cheer their national hero Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentina squad, following Monday's victory over France on penalties in the World Cup final.
It capped off an incredible chapter in the career of Messi - regarded by many as the greatest player the game has ever seen. Unsurprisingly, the 35-year-old icon and his team were swamped by ecstatic supporters in the football-mad country of 46 million people, with the open-top bus parade brought to a stand-still in Buenos Aires.
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Fans came from all over to turn central Buenos Aires into a veritable sea of blue and white as supporters climbed buildings and vehicles and lined streets and bridges, jostling for the best vantage point for the victory parade. The team had arrived in the early hours of Tuesday at Ezeiza airport Despite it being 3am local time, thousands were waiting with banners, flags and flares and howling with joy after Messi and his teammates ended the country's 36-year wait to win the World Cup.
By around midday, millions had congregated in downtown Buenos Aires, with major roads shut down. The players were unable to reach the city's central Obelisk monument as planned due to security concerns because of the size of the crowd - estimated by local media at four million people.
In wild scenes, the Argentina squad had to abandon the open-top bus parade, such was the magnitude of the crowd size and the logistical impossibility of navigating the bus through the throng of people. "It was impossible to continue on the ground due to the explosion of joy," tweeted presidential spokeswoman Gabriela Cerruti.
As the open-top bus snaked through the city, players danced and cheered with fans who circled the vehicle. Police were having to hold people back to allow the bus to move forward on its slow journey towards the centre of town.
"They don't let us get to greet all the people who were at the Obelisco. The security agents that escorted us won't allow us to move forward," tweeted Chiqui Tapia, president of the Argentine Football Association. "A thousand apologies on behalf of all the champion players."
Videos on social media emerged that showed fans jumping onto the top deck of the bus transporting the players when it passed under a bridge at one point. At least one fan was reported to have fallen off attempting to get closer to the players.
Fans jump from a bridge on Argentina’s team bus. One falls, taken away on a stretcher, but still singing.
Never seen anything like this! 🇦🇷🏆pic.twitter.com/HsT9DTTvj8
— Adriano Del Monte (@adriandelmonte) December 20, 2022
Incredible scenes in Argentina as an estimated 5 MILLION people flood the streets to welcome home their World Cup winning squad..
— Nqobile Ndlovu (@CashNSport) December 20, 2022
Buenos Aires, Argentina has totally collapsed. The victory parade, if you can even call it that, has been cut short.
This is the one of the few videos I’ve received that’s the safe to upload to social media. People were jumping into the bus. Just INSANE 🤦🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/OKHfDy7zOB
— Nico Cantor (@Nicocantor1) December 20, 2022
Argentina squad abandons open-top bus
Eventually, Argentina's players had to abandon the open-top bus parade and they were transferred to helicopters, where the victory parade continued in the sky. "The world champions are flying over the entire route in helicopters because it became impossible to continue on land due to the explosion of joy," presidential spokeswoman Gabriela Cerruti wrote on Twitter.
The Argentine capital has been in party mode since the dramatic victory over France in the World Cup final, which has helped mask economic woes in the South American nation battling one of the world's highest inflation rates. The penalty shootout victory was the country's third World Cup title and first since the late Diego Maradona inspired his side to victory in 1986. The government made Tuesday a national holiday to allow fans to celebrate, which explains the extraordinary turnout in the capital.
Messi - who was positioned in the middle of a group on top of the bus - soaked up the adulation of a country that was desperate to see him win the World Cup trophy and add the missing piece to an extraordinary trophy cabinet. The Paris St-Germain star had earlier posted a series of photos showing him waking up alongside the World Cup trophy.
Many thought the World Cup triumph would be Messi's international swansong but the 35-year-old confirmed after the final that he intends to keep playing on. “No, I’m not going to retire from the national team,” he said in a post-match interview. “I want to keep playing as World Cup champions in the Argentina shirt.”
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