Thousands of ecstatic, red-and-white-clad Club Atlético de Madrid fans streamed to the Neptune fountain in the centre of the Spanish capital on Wednesday night after their dramatic UEFA Europa League final victory against Fulham FC.
Supporters of all ages converged on the fountain near El 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 Forlán, 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 48 years.
"I had to come down and celebrate as it's so long since we've been here," Gregorio Hernández Villamor, an 84-year-old ex-policeman and lifelong Atlético fan who had defied back trouble to make it to the party, said. "This is one of our sweetest victories and it's an important step forward for the club," adding that he was sorry for the Fulham fans as he loved England and was a big fan of ex-Atlético striker Fernando Torres, now at Liverpool FC.
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.
César Martínez, a 39-year-old factory worker who had come down with seven members of his family, including four young girls in Atlético shirts and scarves, spoke of the pride and suffering of being a fan of the long-suffering club. "This is a historic victory," he said. "I came down here in 1996 and it's a tremendous feeling to be here again."
The joy among the Atlético faithful was made all the sweeter as many passed by the nearby La Cibeles fountain on their way to the party, the traditional site of title celebrations for their more successful city rivals Real Madrid CF. "If you're not jumping you're a Real fan," hundreds shouted as they bounced up and down.
With Real Madrid fans having delighting in calling their neighbours 'Patético de Madrid', the club's reputation for bad luck was established as they conceded a freak, extra-time equaliser to FC Bayern München in the 1973/74 European Champion Clubs' Cup final before being crushed in the replay. The club were nicknamed 'El Pupas' (the unfortunate ones); their fans 'Los Sufridores' (the sufferers). All that suffering may finally feel worthwhile this morning.
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