Thousands of fans lined up in the middle of the night to try to get a glimpse of the Argentina team that won Sunday’s World Cup final before what is scheduled to be a day of celebrations in Buenos Aires.
Members of the team, led by Lionel Messi, were all smiles as they descended from the plane in Ezeiza, right outside Argentina’s capital, shortly before 3am on Tuesday on to a red carpet rolled out for the squad.
Messi was the first player from the plane, carrying the World Cup, flanked by the coach Lionel Scaloni, who put his arm around the captain as they walked past a sign that read: “Thank you, champions.”
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Photograph: Caspar Benson
The players were welcomed by the rock band La Mosca singing “Muchachos”, a song that was written by a fan to the tune of an old song by the band and became a popular unofficial anthem for Argentina fans at the World Cup in Qatar.
The squad boarded an open-top bus and several, including Messi, could be seen singing the words to “Muchachos” while they waited for everyone to get on to travel to the headquarters of the Argentinian Football Association.
The bus moved at a snail’s pace as fans, many waving Argentina flags, swarmed the bus on a highway, eager for a glimpse of the players as law enforcement officers tried to keep them at bay. Throughout the trip, Messi held the World Cup as players waved to fans and often sang along with them.
Lionel Messi holds the World Cup, flanked by Argentina’s coach Lionel Scaloni, as they get off the plane in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Marcelo Endelli/Getty ImagesIt took the bus about an hour to travel approximately 11km (6.8 miles) to the AFA headquarters, where the players were welcomed with fireworks. They were due to sleep there for a few hours before boarding the bus to the Obelisk, the iconic Buenos Aires landmark that was a sea of people on Sunday after the team won the country’s third World Cup, and its first since 1986.
President Alberto Fernández declared Tuesday a national holiday so the country could celebrate. As the plane carrying the players got closer to Argentinian soil, almost 200,000 people were tracking its path online and news channels gave live coverage of the arrival.
In the afternoon, people started arriving at the airport and outside the AFA headquarters. Many were also already at the Obelisk, seemingly ready to spend the night there to ensure a prime spot for Tuesday’s festivities.
Several players posted photos of the plane ride on social media. Messi held the World Cup on the plane. Nicolás Tagliafico, meanwhile, posted a photo of the World Cup buckled into a seat as if it were just another passenger.
Fernández retweeted several messages of congratulations from other world leaders, including Vladimir Putin. “Thank you for this greeting President Putin,” Fernández wrote on Twitter after a telephone call with the Russian leader. “Let the happiness that today unites Argentina with so many countries in the world serve as an example: Our societies need unity and peace.”