Spanish celebrations: 'They've done more for us than all our politicians'

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The Independent Online

Fiesta. Fiesta in the packed, smoky pubs. Fiesta with family in the homes. Fiesta on the sweltering streets.

Fiesta was the operative word throughout Spain last night as thousands celebrated victory over the Netherlands – the first World Cup win in 90 years. Car horns blared. Trumpets sounded. Crowds back-slapped, jumped and screamed as Andres Iniesta delivered the winning goal.

"World champions!" shouted 16-year-old José Angel Salto García, wrapped from head to toe in red-and-gold Spanish flags, as he darted from a pub into the street, stopping traffic.

"All of Spain is going to get drunk!" screamed his face-painted friend, Lidia Marco Pereira, amid a round of hugs.

Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards poured on to the streets to watch the historic win against the Netherlands on giant screens in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities, and the party continues today with a welcome-home celebration in Madrid.

"This is history!" shouted 22-year-old Luis Criado, an unemployed ceramic maker, kissing the Spanish insignia on his shirt. He had travelled for four hours by bus from Jaen to watch the match on the Madrid streets. His friend kneeled to the ground, as though in prayer. "This is the greatest," he said.

The crowds agonised with each missed opportunity for goal. They alternatively cursed and cheered the referee. They guzzled beer and wine, and chain smoked as the goalless game churned on. "It was exciting, but agonising waiting 120 minutes to score a goal," said 24-year-old José Luis Sanz Mardomingo, who wore his bathing suit in preparation for a victory dip in a fountain near his home outside Madrid.

But Spain's victory was more than sporting milestone. It was also a much-needed morale boost to a country where 20 per cent of the population is unemployed and a housing bubble has burst.

Electrician Raul Bernal and his friends blew horns and waved Spanish flags waiting for the World Cup Final to be shown on giant screen in Madrid's Paseo de Recoletos. They have all spent several months on the dole this year, but yesterday, they were in a party mood.

"We've forgotten about the crisis these days, everyone has their mind on sports," he said as passing cars honked victory toots and the thermometer hit 34C. "All that matters now is the game."

Even those lukewarm about football were caught up in the "Red Spirit".

"It's free happiness, you don't have to pay anyone for it," said Isabel De Mingo, a 30-year-old civil servant whose salary was cut by 5 per cent because of the austerity plan. "My mother never liked football, but she wouldn't even go to her home town for the weekend because she wanted to watch the game in Madrid where there's a party atmosphere."

The final match was also a rare moment of national unity despite strong movements for Basque and Catalonian regional autonomy. "I've never seen so many Spanish flags waving in Catalonia," said Rosa Gil, a 47-year-old radio presenter from Barcelona. "In tough moments, it's all for one, the Red Spirit."

She suggested that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero learn a lesson from Spain's manager Vicente del Bosque. "He's done more for Spain than all the politicians put together," she said. "Del Bosque for prime minister!"