Argentina goes from buses to helicopters due to overpopulation

Argentina’s World Cup heroes had to abandon an open-top bus parade in Buenos Aires on Tuesday as millions of euphoric fans flooded the streets and brought the city to a standstill, with Lionel Messi and their teammates hopped on helicopters to complete the planned celebrations.

The players who triumphed in Sunday’s World Cup final in Qatar were unable to reach the central Obelisk monument as planned because the route was completely blocked by the agitated crowd, estimated by local media at four million strong.

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With social media footage showing some fans trying to get on the team bus as it passed under a bridge, the planned eight-hour journey was cut short due to safety fears. The players were transferred from their parade bus to helicopters.

“The world champions are flying over the entire route in helicopters because it became impossible to continue on the ground due to the explosion of popular joy,” presidential spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti wrote on Twitter.

“Let’s continue to celebrate in peace and show them our love and admiration!”

Television images showed people all over the city, huge crowds waiting around the central Obelisk, while many more took to the roads to try to catch a glimpse of their returning champions in surely one of the largest crowds in history.

“It’s crazy, it’s incredible, it’s the best thing that can happen to you in life,” said metallurgist Matías Gómez, 25.

“It is an enormous joy to see all these happy people, all together, with each other, holding hands, giving each other hugs, kisses. Today we are all one.”

The team had arrived at the Ezeiza airport at dawn this Tuesday where, despite being close to 3 in the morning, thousands were waiting with banners, flags and flares, and howled with joy after 36 years since the country’s last victory in the world Cup.

Around noon, millions had already gathered in the center of Buenos Aires, with the main roads closed for the parade. People held banners of Messi and the late icon Diego Maradona, played instruments or climbed light poles or bus shelters.

The Argentine capital has been in party mode since a dramatic win over France in Sunday’s final in Qatar, helping to mask economic woes in the South American nation battling one of the world’s highest rates of inflation.

The penalty shootout victory made the country world champions for the first time since Maradona lifted the trophy in 1986 and the third overall.

The government made Tuesday a national holiday to allow fans to celebrate the victory.

As the open top bus meandered through the city, the players danced and cheered with the fans that surrounded the bus. Police had to hold people back to allow the vehicle to proceed on its slow journey towards the center of the city.

But finally they could not go further.

“They won’t let us get to greet all the people who were at the Obelisk. The security agents who were escorting us did not let us move forward”. Tweeted Chiqui TapiaPresident of the Argentine Football Association (AFA).

“A thousand apologies on behalf of all the champion players.”

Messi, 35, has polished his reputation as one of the world’s best with Argentina’s victory over France 4-2 on penalties after a stunning 3-3 draw after extra time.

He has said that it was his last game in the World Cup, although he plans to play a few more games for the national team.

At times it has felt like the whole country has been partying all night from Sunday onwards in the southern hemisphere summer, the joy of victory infecting everyone with cars regularly honking their horns in celebration.

“There are people lying on the floor who came straight from the last party to get up and continue celebrating,” said Elio Maisares, 25, as he celebrated in the city where everyone and everything was covered in the white and blue of the Albiceleste.

“Look at all this, look at everything that is painted blue and white. On the roads, on the highways, all the people are supporting Argentina,” he said.

“It’s really impressive, it’s unique, what a way to cry. I cried this morning, yesterday, the day before yesterday, I can’t cry anymore, it’s unbelievable!”

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