BOGOTA, July 7 – Tens of thousands of people mobbed the streets of Bogota to grab a glimpse of their heroes as Colombia’s World Cup squad arrived home Sunday after their historic run to the quarter-finals.
The Colombian capital threw a massive party for coach Jose Pekerman and his squad after the Argentinian team led Colombia’s players to the last eight for the first time, where they narrowly went down to host Brazil 2-1 in Fortaleza on Friday.
Not that anyone in Colombia was complaining.
The Avianca airlines plane carrying the squad from Brazil was greeted at El Dorado airport by a huge arc of water fired by local fire crews and the players were led off the aircraft along a red carpet and to an open-top bus.
Security officers and airport workers scrambled to shake hands, kiss or grab autographs of their returning heroes.
“Thanks for always being there, thanks for the support, we love you,” Colombia’s star forward James Rodriguez, currently top scorer at the World Cup with six goals, told the fanatical crowd.
Nadia Caracol, one of the Avianca flight attendants, gushed: “It was the most exciting flight of my life.”
Tens of thousands of people, many of them wearing the team’s yellow shirt, hit the streets of Bogota early to get a prime place to see the bus, which slowly made its way from the airport to Simon Bolivar park in the heart of Bogota, where an estimated 50,000 people thronged the area.
“We are very happy here waiting for our great team, we are winners for having reached this point of the tournament,” said Eduardo, a fan accompanied by his two daughters.
Some fans combined football with a plea for peace — the Marxist FARC rebels have been waging the longest-running insurgency in Latin America — while others chanted: “Pekerman is Colombian!”
Another fan, Wilson Morales, proudly decked out in the yellow team shirt, told AFP: “Being Colombian, we have little joy, but this team is our pride.”