Barca stars feted in victory parade
© AFP

Tens of thousands of ecstatic fans cheered Barcelona's UEFA Champions League heroes during a victory parade through the city centre in an open-top bus Thursday.

Leo Messi, Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry and their team-mates flew back from Rome after a stunning 2-0 win over Manchester United on Wednesday - the third part of a unique treble including the Spanish league and cup titles. The players and coach Pep Guardiola then rode through the city in a open-top bus decked out in the club's royal blue and burgundy colours and marked "Champions," dancing and waving to the fans.

The crowd, many of whom waved the red and yellow flag of the Catalonia region, chanted "Ole, Ole, Champions!" and "Barca, Barca and Barca!" as the bus headed through the city's main thoroughfares for the club's Camp Nou stadium.

Cameroonian Eto'o, who scored one of the goals in the final, stood at the front, blowing kisses to the crowd. "Eto'o, Africa says thank you," said one banner carried by a Senegalese man who said his name was Yatma. "Since he (Eto'o) came here we (Africans) are better treated," he said.

Two little girls, aged six and eight, both wearing Messi strips, were disappointed that they could not see the Argentine star, who scored the second goal. "Messi isn't there, Papa," they cried. "He'll be on the other side," their father said. One jubilant Catalan, Alfons, said: "I lived in Buenos Aires building motorways, just as Messi helped lift us up on the road to glory." Messi, he insisted, was a Catalan.

Dozens of youths also clambered onto the Colombus monument, at one end of the famous Las Ramblas avenue, to await the team. The joyful scenes contrasted with those in the early hours of Thursday when police in the city arrested 119 people and more than 150 people were injured as victory celebrations descended into riots.