This goes beyond sport, says Spain manager del Bosque
Spain's triumphant footballers will return to Barajas Airport in Madrid today at 1pm with thousands expected to greet them.
After a month in South Africa, Vicente del Bosque's team had won the hearts of the whole nation even before they lifted the World Cup for the first time in the country's history.
An open-top parade will later take the players through the streets of Madrid beginning at 7pm at the capital's political centre Moncloa and finishing at Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon stadium along the banks of the city's bone dry river La Manzanares.
"The dressing room is delighted, ecstatic," said Del Bosque last night. "It was difficult to speak on the phone it was so loud in there. But Spain, the country, deserves this triumph, this World Cup. This goes beyond sport. We have to celebrate. All the people have been behind us in Spain, and we're delighted to reward them with this victory."
Most supporters will not have slept for 48 hours when the players show off the World Cup. Parties went through the night after television images showed player after player unable to hold back tears.
Goalscorer Andres Iniesta dedicated the victory to his great friend Dani Jarque, the Espanyol defender who died of a heart attack at the start of last season, aged 26. He then broke down in tears and could not continue the interview. After scoring, the Barcelona player lifted his shirt to reveal a message to the former Spain Under-21 star.
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas was also in tears when interviewed by Sara Carbonero – a television journalist who is also the Real Madrid player's girlfriend. After the tears came the kiss as he planted a smacker on the interviewer's lips in front of a live TV audience.
The mood had not been as cheerful earlier in the night. Spanish fans came out in their hundreds of thousands to cheer La Roja but spent most of the game screaming for English referee Howard Webb to show the red card as Holland did their best to kick Spain out of the World Cup final.
In the build-up to the game, the Spanish had worried over the election of Premier League official Webb and his tendency to let the game flow. "Let's hope he stops Mark van Bommel from kicking more rivals per minute than any other player in the tournament," said former Spanish referee Rafa Guerrero before the game.
And there were heartbeats missed throughout hysterical Spanish commentary boxes when Webb was spotted deep in conversation with Van Bommel during the warm-up. Only when he then took Xabi Alonso aside were the nerves eased – fair treatment for both sets of players.
But as soon as the game started, fair play was forgotten as far as Spanish fans were concerned. Van Bommel and Nigel de Jong soon earned yellow cards for challenges that would have been straight reds in Spain's domestic league. And with the card-count standing at 11 fouls for the Netherlands and five for Spain just before half-time, supporters from Seville to San Sebastian were enraged.
Once again Webb was blamed for not reducing the Dutch to 10 men when Wesley Sneijder appeared to go in studs-up on Sergio Busquets. "Don't just talk to him, book him," said Jose Antonio Camacho, commentating for Spanish television. The former Spain international and national manager was furious that Webb had lectured instead of booked Sneijder after his late kick on the Barcelona midfielder.
Webb's display was causing almost as much stress as Arjen Robben, who was giving the 200,000 watching fans crammed into Madrid's Paseo de la Castellana palpitations every time he broke down the Dutch right. "The dirty Oranje are stopping us by kicking us", was the headline on newspaper Marca's website above the image of De Jong's kung-fu kick into the chest of Alonso. But those headlines were replaced on full-time by the simple message: "Campeones Campeones."