In contrast with their smooth UEFA Europa League campaign FC Porto's trophy parade proved a stop-start affair, but the delays could not dampen the excitement as thousands of supporters lined the streets to welcome their heroes back from Dublin.
A large crowd was present at Sá Carneiro airport to greet the plane carrying the triumphant Porto team when they landed at 17.55 local time on Thursday. Goalkeeper Helton was the first off the aircraft, which had the words 'this is our destiny' painted on to each side, and it immediately became clear that Andre Villas-Boas' men were in the mood to celebrate. "We're prepared for the party," said the Brazilian custodian, who had marked his 33rd birthday in ideal fashion on Wednesday night. "We always find energy to celebrate with the fans."
While injured forward Cristián Rodríguez informed reporters that the singing on board had not relented from take-off until landing, Hulk reflected on the previous night's success against SC Braga. "There's no doubt this victory will mark our careers," said the Brazilian striker. "We're going to celebrate with the fans because this title also belongs to them."
The Portuguese champions soon boarded the open-top bus that awaited them, decorated in an enormous blue-and-white banner that carried the proud words: 'Conquerors of Europe, Dublin, 18 May, 2011'. The bus experienced mechnical problems shortly after leaving the airport, however, and the players were forced to switch to a replacement.
After the new vehicle had been swiftly decked out in Porto's colours, the journey recommenced and the players eventually arrived in the heart of the city at 20.20, more than an hour later than planned. None of the supporters had given up on them, though, and an almighty roar accompanied the bus down the Avenida dos Aliados, with the decibel levels increasing further when goal-hero Falcao lifted the trophy.
Many of the fans followed the procession all the way to the Estádio do Dragão, where the UEFA Europa League crown was carefully placed in the club's replenished trophy cabinet.
The partying went on long into the night, although the players were already looking forward to their next tilt for silverware: the Portuguese Cup final against Vitória SC on Sunday. "We'll celebrate today but tomorrow we'll be back to work," vowed back-up goalkeeper Beto. Assistant coach Pedro Emanuel echoed those words, saying: "Now it's time to party but tomorrow we'll turn our attentions to the cup final because there is still one more trophy to win."
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