MADRID (Reuters) - Spaniards seized on their European Championship triumph as a source of restored national pride after months of economic anxieties, as celebrations reached fever pitch on Monday with a victory parade in the capital.
Across the country many were looking forward to another night of revelry after Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 on Sunday, becoming the first team to win two Euro titles in a row, with a World Cup in between.
The team arrived back in Madrid on Monday afternoon. After visiting King Juan Carlos I, the players were cheered by tens of thousand of fans during a lap of the capital and a party near the central fountain of Cibeles, the scene of euphoric celebrations on Sunday that stretched into the early hours.
The game also drew a record television audience of nearly 15.5 million people, broadcaster Telecinco said.
However, even amid the car honking and chants of “Yo soy Espanol” (I am Spanish) filling the streets of Madrid and other cities, worries about Spain’s recession-hit economy were never far from people’s minds.
Several of the players dedicated the victory to Spaniards suffering from the economic crisis.
National morale took a beating when Spain was forced to ask for a European rescue for its ailing banks last month.
Many were now looking to the historic achievement of the national soccer team as a source of inspiration for the tough months ahead, with lessons to be drawn from the squad’s performance for Spaniards and their politicians.
“Let us mature amid the complexity of these difficult days we’re living in and let us learn from yesterday’s resounding victory everything that makes us stronger, better, freer, more just and, even, happier,” wrote one commentator in the right-leaning newspaper ABC.
Like many of the leading dailies, it dedicated the first 10 pages of Monday’s edition to coverage of the game and celebrations, under the headline “Invincible Spain”.
Others waxed lyrical, about everything from the ethics to the style displayed by the players, with special editions drowned in red and yellow lettering and pictures of the Spanish flag.
“Spain is eternal, like the songs that stay with us when love passes,” wrote El Mundo, likening Spain’s goals to the beats in a melody.
But it also took a shot at politicians, with a cartoon showing the soccer team lined up for an official photo on the steps of the Moncloa, the prime minister’s residence, above the caption: “The solution to our problems: the government of (coach) Del Bosque and his ministers.”
Spain has had to ask for up to 100 billion euros in European Union support for its banks and the right-wing government of Mariano Rajoy is also struggling to rein in a gaping deficit.
Deep spending cuts and the handling of the country’s banking turmoil - with big bailouts for lenders linked to politicians - has sparked public anger, while the European rescue and economic worries left many anxious.
Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Julien Toyer and Alison Wildey