Members of Belgium's Spanish community will be leaving Tournai with a new set of heroes after cheering Spain to UEFA European Under-17 Championship glory against England.
While there was plenty to enjoy for all comers in the hours before the final, with penalty shoot-outs and competitions for young fans to win t-shirts, the most notable thing about the crowd at the Luc Varenne Stadium was the number of red-and-yellow Spain shirts in the stands, with several hundred fans gathering to cheer Juan Santisteban's side to their eventual 1-0 win against England.
One of them was 25 years old Rafael Fernandez. "I live in Liège," he told uefa.com. "I was born here, to a Spanish-born father and a Belgian mother. I read on the internet that Spain were coming here for the tournament so me and a friend decided to follow them. We saw two group matches and now the final. It's the first of two finals for us as we will we watching [R.] Standard [de Liège] play Club Brugge KV in the Belgian Cup final on 26 May."
Like so many of the fans at the finals, it was an excellent opportunity for Fernandez to see the stars of the future in action. He said: "I had not heard of any of the players before the tournament but now I know players like Bojan [Krkić] and Ignacio Camacho. And when in a few years time players like them make it to the senior teams, then we can say we already saw them play in Belgium as 16-year-olds."
Fernandez correctly predicted that Bojan would score the only goal of the final, handing Spain their seventh European title at this level. At the final whistle, it was party time for the Spanish contingent at the Luc Varenne Stadium. With red-and-yellow flags waving in the breeze, Spain's stars of tomorrow will leave Belgium with great memories - and even greater futures.
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