Sunday, 23 May 2010

San Siro hails returning heroes

Morning had broken but the tens of thousands of Interisti still inside the San Siro were not going home until they had saluted their returning heroes.

San SiroWhether UEFA had this in mind when deciding to switch the UEFA Champions League final to a Saturday night is unclear, but for the Inter faithful an all-night party at their theatre of dreams was the happy consequence.

Some 50,000 fans flocked to the stadium after seeing the Nerazzurri's 2-0 triumph over Bayern Munich.

At 2am the San Siro gates were opened and four hours later, there were still around 35,000 inside to greet the arrival of the players who had brought the club their third European crown.

The stadium announcer revealed that coach Jose Mourinho was not with his squad while a number of players had already flown off to join their respective national teams ahead of the FIFA World Cup.

But the hero of the night, the two-goal Diego Milito, was there to take the acclaim, wearing the shirt of his compatriot and captain Javier Zanetti.

"I think we fully deserve this," said the Argentina forward. "Especially after beating Chelsea [in the round of 16], we played every game knowing we could go all the way."

Before descending on the stadium, Inter fans had turned the streets of Milan black and blue – with the most popular meeting places the Piazza del Duomo, Castello Sforzesco and Corso Magenta, home to one of the most popular sport bars in the city.

"I campioni d'Europa siamo noi," they sang – we are the champions of Europe – and there were also chants in 'honour' of city rivals AC Milan.

After all, no Inter fan under 50 can remember the Nerazzurri lifting the European Cup back in 1964 and 1965 but they can certainly recall Milan's recent triumphs – the Rossoneri are the second most successful team in the competition, with five of their seven wins in the last 21 years.

In their moment of celebration, the San Siro remembered the former Inter captain and President, Giacinto Facchetti, who died in 2006.

Midfielder Esteban Cambiasso had on the old No3 shirt that Faccheti wore in the 1960s, given to him in 2007 by Facchetti's son, as the stadium announcer dedicated the victory to his memory.

The current Inter captain, Zanetti, said the celebrations would continue "for many days".

The Argentinian veteran made his 700th appearance for the club in Madrid and, addressing the crowd, he said: "It was very difficult but we did it. I have been here for 15 years now; my joy is the same as it is for you people who are still here to celebrate with us at six o'clock in the morning and will continue to celebrate for many days."

Some 30 minutes later the party was over and the fans began heading for home, many stopping en route at kiosks to buy the Sunday papers celebrating Inter's success.

Those who prepared the banner saying "Mou, we can pay for your return ticket from Madrid" were disappointed not to see the Portuguese coach. But after watching him write a new chapter in their history with a fantastic treble, most Inter fans are ready to turn the page.

Source: UEFA

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