Checking their phones and sending messages to friends and family, the Spain players initially fell silent as they congregated in the dressing room, just minutes after lifting the FIFA World Cup™ Trophy at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.
But when they caught sight of a television replay of the goal that beat the Netherlands they put down their phones and shouted as one, hailing the hero of the night. “Grande Andres!” they cried in unison as the subject of their adulation took a well-earned seat in a corner of the dressing room while his team-mates danced and sang around him, passing the Trophy around, kissing it and having their photos taken with it too. Not even the appearance of Queen Sofia, Principe Felipe and Princesa Letizia, the three members of the Spanish royal family present at the Final, could bring the noise levels down.
Also joining in the celebrations, posing for a photo with the victorious squad, was tennis ace Rafael Nadal. Sporting a scarf and face paint and with a Spanish flag draped around his shoulders, the newly crowned Wimbledon champion was in emotional mood. “I’ve been crying like a kid,” he admitted, his eyes still watery.
As they chanted “Champions, champions”, the players then received a visit from another distinguished guest, the tenor Placido Domingo, who received warm applause from the new kings of world football.
I’ve been crying like a kid.
The only member of the 23-man squad absent from the party was entertainer-in-chief Pepe Reina, otherwise engaged at a random doping test. The Liverpool keeper was obviously being missed by his team-mates, an indication of the strong bonds that exist in the side. Meanwhile, discreet as ever, national coach Vicente del Bosque stood to one side, answering congratulatory phone calls from his friends and family and allowing the players to get on with their celebrations.
“Come on mate, pass it on,” they shouted at Sergio Ramos after his third kiss with the Trophy. While his colleagues signed shirts, understudy goalkeeper Victor Valdes took his off and presented it to one of the stadium volunteers.
Having finished their energy drinks, the players then moved on to something a little stronger, toasting their victory with beer. Clutching bottles in their hands, Cesc Fabregas and Carles Puyol returned arm in arm to the pitch to soak up the silence that now shrouded the Soccer City Stadium, the setting for their finest hour. In the meantime a clearly anxious Gerard Pique made arrangements to claim a piece of the net in which Iniesta had scored his match-winning goal.
“Hey, what about the music?” asked a voice above the din. After a short delay, the request was finally answered, prompting Joan Capdevila, clearly in the mood for dancing despite wearing a bucket on his head, to cry “Where’s Shakira?”.
Reina finally made his entrance, the cue for a rendition of his trademark tune “Camarero!”, one that he sang to celebrate their UEFA EURO 2008 triumph. The singing continued long into the night, as did the laughter, toasts, photos, calls and messages.
Anxious to let the players get on with their party, we took our leave. As we made our exit, we stumbled across a pensive Wesley Sneijder, waiting patiently at the door for the chance to congratulate his partying rivals. Given the din going on inside, the Inter Milan midfielder was a model of restraint, in striking contrast to the Spanish revellers.