Real fans rejoice after capturing historic tenth European crown
MAY 25, 2014 7:25a ET
As soon as Real Madrid had -- eventually -- beaten city rivals Atletico Madrid 4-1 in extra-time in Saturday's UEFA Champions League final, a huge stream of Blancos fans headed straight for the famous Cibeles statue in the center of the Spanish capital to get the party started.
The final whistle just 500 miles away at the Estadio da Luz was the signal for hundreds of thousands of overjoyed -- and hugely relieved -- Blancos fans to rush from their houses and the city's bars and restaurants and fill the streets of the Spanish capital.
For over two long hours these streets had been eerily quiet during what was the first ever Champions League final between two clubs from the same city. But now they were thronged with people of all ages, shapes and sizes celebrating with friends and family an end to 12 years of waiting for Real Madrid's tenth European Cup.
For most of the game such celebrations seemed unlikely, with Madrid 1-0 behind as the clock ticked past the regulation 90 minutes. But Sergio Ramos' last-gasp headed equalizer brought extra-time -- and Madrid's fresher side were able to go on and score three times during the extra 30 minutes.
Some Blancos fans stayed long enough after the final whistle to watch long serving club captain Iker Casillas -- whose first half mistake had seemed set to give Atletico the trophy for the first time ever -- lift the famous big-eared trophy. Madridistas everywhere -- in the Estadio da Luz, elsewhere in Lisbon where they'd traveled without a ticket, in the Santiago Bernabeu, in the streets of the city, all around the world -- could relax. "La Decima" had finally arrived.
The focus of the celebrations was Cibeles -- an ancient fertility goddess who rides a stone chariot pulled by twin lions in a central Madrid square. Most made the pilgrimage by foot, but dozens rode past clinging to mopeds, while the noise of hundreds of passing drivers honking car horns into the night. Thousands also made the three mile journey from the Bernabeu, where 80,000 Blancos fans had together watching the drama live on big screens.
Nearby Puerto del Sol -- the beating heart of the city -- has had two huge billboard-size Atletico and Real jerseys on display ever since the final pairing was decided a month ago. This final has been the main topic of conversation in the country for weeks, and the game did not disappoint. Incidents like Casilla's mistake for Atletico's goal, Ramos' last-gasp equalizer, Gareth Bale's stooping header for 2-1 and Cristiano Ronaldo's bare-chested celebration of his final penalty will be recalled for years to come. Any time hence when a Madrid supporter is losing an argument with an Atletico fan there will always be a trump card to play -- "yeah, but we won in Lisbon."
Real's manager Carlo Ancelotti couldn't contain his excitement after the match. "We have done it with a lot of suffering and difficulty, but in the end we have done it and we deserved it," said the Italian boss. "I am very happy for this because we have won a trophy that for Real Madrid is very important. We have worked hard all year for this."
Ramos was equally delighted to notch the equalizer, adding: "It is the most important goal I have scored. It is an incredible feeling. We kept fighting until the end for the fans. It is not my goal, but one for all Madrid fans, my family and all those that have supported us until the end. We deserved it after so many years."
Los Blancos' fans had suffered through 12 long years of waiting for "La Decima" -- with over one billion dollars spent on players and 11 different coaches being hired and fired. There have been various celebrations of La Liga and Copa del Rey wins over the last decade, but this was the big one. Veterans Casillas and Ramos had talked pre-game about how the knocks along the way would make winning even sweeter for the players, and the delirious fans dancing and singing through the city streets definitely seemed to share that feeling.
With police blocking traffic, the wide avenue was filled with happy fans. Groups of young singing fans mingled with families including children not born the last time their team had won the trophy. Chants of "Hala Madrid" segued into the unofficial club song, with lyrics immediately amended to now go "How could I not love you, being European champions for the tenth time."
Just 500 yards down from Cibeles, the statue of Neptune -- where just last Sunday 200,000 Atleticos celebrated a first La Liga win in 18 years -- sat alone and neglected. The 55,000 Colchoneros supporters who'd gone to watch their team on the big screen at the Calderon -- and their brethren in the city's bars and restaurants -- had by now melted away home.
Madrid's players were to fly straight back to the Spanish capital after the game, due at the Bernabeu into the wee hours of the morning, to board an open-top bus and then make the short trip through the city to Cibeles, where the party would still be raging. The official celebration and presentation of trophy to fans [including those having returned from Lisbon by car, bus or plane] is set for the Bernabeu on Sunday evening.
Ronaldo, the reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or winner, said the achievement at Lisbon on Saturday night may qualify as the best of his illustrious career.
"Every year I try to do my best, I score goals and I help the team -- but maybe because we won the Copa del Rey, we won the Champions League and I won the golden boot," added Ronaldo, who scored 17 goals in 13 Champions League games this season. "Of course it's a dream for me. I'm really proud to win it here [in Lisbon, where he started his career with Sporting]. We've worked all these years to win these kind of trophies so I'm happy with my teammates and the fans -- they deserve that."
As the singing and dancing continued two things were clear. Madrid remains the capital of the soccer world. And "La Decima" party was only getting started.