An outdoor bus parade of the Argentine World Cup champions had to be canceled in part to protect the safety of the millions of fans who poured onto the streets of Buenos Aires as celebrations descended into chaos.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi Instead, his classmates and colleagues boarded helicopters for a tour of the capital, which the government described as an airshow.
Some fans who had been waiting for the show for hours clashed with riot police as violence threatened to overshadow the event.
Gabriela Ceruti, a spokeswoman for President Alberto Fernandez, wrote on social media that “the world champions are flying over the entire track on helicopters because it was impossible to continue overland due to the explosion of people’s happiness.”
The players were unable to reach the Obelisk Central Monument in Buenos Aires as planned due to the crowd size estimated at four million people according to local media citing police sources.
The bus had been moving slowly for more than four hours before the show was cancelled.
The Argentine president had declared Tuesday a national holiday so that his country could celebrate the World Cup victory.
Football journalist Tim Vickery told Sky News that “millions” lined the streets of the capital and he “thought it could go catastrophically” before the show was cancelled.
“As the team bus was going under the bridges, there were people from those bridges trying to jump onto the bus.
“The bus couldn’t make progress, there were too many people there, so in the end they had to make the decision to give up on the bus,” Vickery said.
He added, “It seemed like it was the safest option because he was looking a lot.”
Fans celebrated taking over highways, roads and access roads into the capital as temperatures soared to 30 degrees Celsius.
Thousands had made camp since early Tuesday morning at the obelisk, the traditional site of the festivities.
After hovering over key points in Buenos Aires where fans gathered, the helicopters carrying the players returned to the Argentine Football Association headquarters outside the capital.
Assembly president Claudio Tapia blamed law enforcement for the change in plans.
He said, “They do not allow us to welcome all the people who were in the obelisk. The same security services that accompanied us do not allow us to move forward.”
“A thousand apologies on behalf of all the heroic players. Shame.”
Messi and the rest of the players had waved to the crowd from the bus as they carried the World Cup aloft after Argentina won their third World Cup and first since 1986 when soccer star Diego Maradona lifted the trophy.
“It’s crazy, it’s indescribable,” said Brian Andressi, 23, as he walked downtown in a team jersey. “There are no words.”
Victoria Roldán said, “There is a tremendous union among all Argentines – unity and happiness. It’s as if you can breathe another air, there is another energy in the air.” “My body and my heart are about to explode.”
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The team had arrived in Argentina in the early hours of Tuesday at Ezeiza Airport, where thousands were waiting with banners, flags and torches, even though it was almost 3am (6am GMT), to welcome their heroes back home.
By about midday, millions had already gathered in downtown Buenos Aires, with the main avenues closed for the parade.
People held signs of Messi and the late icon Maradona, played musical instruments, or climbed lampposts or bus stops.
The Argentine capital has been in celebratory mode since its dramatic victory over France in Sunday’s final in Qatar, helping to mask the economic woes of the South American country which is grappling with one of the world’s highest rates of inflation.
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