Thursday, May 13, 2010

Joyous Atletico fans converge on central Madrid

Iain Rogers


Thousands of ecstatic, red and white-clad Atletico Madrid fans streamed to the Neptune fountain in the centre of the Spanish capital on Wednesday after the dramatic Europa League final victory over Fulham.

Supporters of all ages converged on the fountain near the Prado museum, where the club traditionally celebrate their titles, dancing and waving scarves and flags, letting off fireworks and paying homage to Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan, who scored both goals in the 2-1 win in Hamburg.

It was their first chance to party at Neptune since the Spanish league and cup double in the 1995/96 season and the club's first major European trophy in 38 years.

"I had to come down and celebrate as it's so long since we've been here," Gregorio Hernandes Villamor, an 84-year-old ex-policeman and lifelong Atletico fan who had defied back trouble to make it to the party, told Reuters.

"This is one of our sweetest victories and it's an important step forward for the club," he said, adding that he was sorry for the Fulham fans as he loved England and was a big fan of ex-Atletico striker Fernando Torres, now at Liverpool.

Chants of "Atleti! Atleti!" and "Uruguayan! Uruguayan!" rang out around the packed square, where a stage and big screen had been erected ready for more celebrations on Thursday.

Hundreds of other fans took to the streets in flag-draped cars, sounding their horns and waving wildly to passers-by.

The party was set to continue into the early hours and radio reports said the players wanted to join in the fun when they arrived back in Madrid around 4.30 a.m. local time (0230 GMT).

Cesar Martinez, a 39-year-old factory worker who had come down with seven members of his family, including four young girls in Atletico shirts and scarves, spoke of the pride and suffering of being a fan of the working class club.

"This is an historic victory," he said. "I came down here in 1996 and it's a tremendous feeling to be here again."

The joy among the Atletico faithful was made all the sweeter as many passed by the nearby Cibeles fountain on their way to the party -- the traditional site of title celebrations for their vastly wealthier and more successful city rivals Real Madrid.

"If you're not jumping you're a Real fan," hundreds shouted as they bounced up and down.

GetRTR 3.00 -- MAY 13, 2010 06:15:58

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