LIVERPOOL – Under leaden English skies, Liverpool became a carnival of red on Sunday as the football-mad city hailed its heroes for bringing home the Champions League trophy for the first time in 14 years.
“We’re just so excited,” said Tina Taylor, 51, as she joined tens of thousands of locals thronging the city’s streets to watch the team parade Europe’s top football prize from an open-top bus.
“It’s so uplifting for the city, bringing everybody together,” she added, decked out in a red Liverpool shirt and scarf alongside her husband and son, as the team bus neared their vantage point in the suburb of Mossley Hill.
Moments later the double-decker, emblazoned with “Champions of Europe”, rolled by with the famous silver trophy being hoisted aloft by bouncing Liverpool players amid red flare smoke, confetti and wild cheers.
The club claimed the European crown for the sixth time Saturday night in Madrid with a 2-0 win over Tottenham in only the second ever all-English final.
It followed an epic season in which Liverpool narrowly missed out on a first league title in three decades, causing agony – now somewhat relieved – for fans impatient to end the long wait.
“What a day – what a weekend! Imagine lifting that cup,” said 78-year-old Stan Evans, a lifelong local fan who looked out of a first-floor pub window as star striker player Mohamed Salah held it aloft just below his gaze.
Evans could recall cheering all five of Liverpool’s previous European Cup triumphs, starting in 1977, when they beat Borussia Moenchengladbach in the final in Rome.
“This is just as good because I never thought we’d see another one in my lifetime,” he added.
Celebrations ran late into the night in Liverpool city centre, as ecstatic supporters danced drunkenly in the streets singing a repertoire of the club’s anthems.
The morning after, bleary-eyed fans began streaming back onto the streets ahead of the parade, which worked its way slowly towards the city centre.
“I’m ecstatic and hungover at the same time – the best type of hangover,” said Peter Broad, 37, a social housing worker and Liverpool native.
“I might cry again,” he added, flag in hand.
“It’s emotional – it means so much to you just to win. Liverpool’s a very European city, it’s always been outward-looking,” Broad explained.
Thousands of fans lined the roads east of the city centre, while children climbed atop bus stops for a better view, as the bus – preceded by a booming sound stage – made its way.
A jubilant atmosphere rippled through the city, as all manner of Liverpool flags flew from buildings and cars, drivers sounded horns and fans carried everything from banners to balloon replicas of the trophy.
Aleisha Tipton, 23, from nearby Cheshire, staked out a prime spot near the waterfront end-point.
“We don’t care about waiting all afternoon to see them,” she said of her heroes as light rain started to fall.
“It can rain all day, we don’t care!”
She was wearing a commemorative scarf from 2005, when Liverpool last won the competition in a memorable come-from-behind victory over AC Milan in Istanbul.
“This time is better for me as I was only nine then.”
For her granddad Ken Jones, 79, this Liverpool team is up there with the best he has seen.
“They’re brilliant,” he said. “I don’t think they could replace them with anything better.”AFP