ABU DHABI / DUBAI // Spanish fans erupted in a sea of red and yellow early this morning as their World Cup hero Andres Iniesta's goal clinched the trophy for the first time in their nation's history. It was a long night and had been an even longer wait.
As the final whistle went, Spanish supporters crammed into the bars of Abu Dhabi and Dubai last night whooped and hollered in victory celebration. It was shortly after 1am, but the party was only just beginning. "I am working today but I don't care," said a delighted Tucker Sarabia, who watched the game at the NRG Sports Cafe in the capital's Le Meriden Hotel. "The party is just starting, and it will go on and on."
Carlos Lopez, a Spanish expatriate in Abu Dhabi, belted out the Spanish national anthem as he watched his team raise the cup. "If you live in Spain, you are feeling it in your heart. If you are here, you feel it with your heart and soul. This is the best moment in Spanish history of sport." His fellow Iberian, Ursula Esther, swathed in red said: "This is a unique opportunity in my lifetime." The Spanish had set up camp on the top floor, taking their seats hours before the game started. Vuvuzelas had been banned from their area. They didn't need them, they said, making enough noise on their own as they cheered their team on.
They chanted in Spanish: "This octopus! This octopus! Yes! Yes!" referring to the now famous eight-legged sea creature Paul, who had correctly predicted their win. Downstairs, the Dutch contingent, bedecked in orange costumes and fanfare, outnumbered the rival fans. Hundreds of fans from both sides braved the Arabian summer to watch the match, spilling out of the cafe onto the patio outside. They sang each other's national anthems in defiance to assuage the tension when, deep into extra time, the nerves began to tell.
As the Spanish celebrated, dejected Dutch fans sat, drained of emotion after seeing victory seized from them with four minutes left to play. Hoping for a last-minute miracle, they were left ruing the cruelty of defeat. "I feel very, very bad," said Ruben Charbon. "It was such a good match, so close. But we are Holland, and we will be back." Titia Osborne, a Dutch supporter sat quietly with friends as they consoled each other. She was lost for words. "I'm very disappointed. It was a great match, but not their best." Avid fans arrived at locations across the city hours ahead of time, to bag the prime seats before kick off. On the Corniche, at the Special Group Restaurant and Catering, where the garden seating was divided between two screens, fans smokes shisha pies and sipped cold drinks as they waited for the match to begin.
Sara Mehdi, 25, a human resources manager with a health insurance company, was surrounded by family as they started to cheer for Spain. She started with Brazil, moved to Germany and was finally rooting for Spain. "They've been playing really well so they deserve our support." At Barasti beach at Mina Seyahi Hotel in Dubai, fans started gathering at least two hours before kick off, as the air conditioned 1,200 capacity Dome welcomed its last crowd of the World Cup.
It was full to capacity and those who couldn't get tickets endured the evening heat to watch on a screen outside. There was a spirit of friendly rivalry with both supporters mixing, waving flags. Some had painted their faces in the their teams colours. At the final whistle Arash Assadi, a half-Iranian, half-Spanish 23-year-old said, "I am so happy right now, I cannot describe it, this is the best feeling in the world. Our team has been amazing since 2008 when they won the European Championship, and now finally we are world champions. La Furia Roja (the red fury)!" As Spain's captain Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup on the massive screen, Dutch fans dejectedly made their way home. Wilbert, a 35-year-old Dutchman, said, "I am extremely disappointed but of course we're still proud of our team, all other teams were scared of Spain but we stood our ground and were never afraid. I really think we deserved more out of the match, at least penalties." Many Dutch supporters were too upset to comment but all showed dignity in defeat. Paul, a 29-year-old who lives in the Marina, said,"Of course this hurts very much but we have to accept that Spain are a great team. They played very well and perhaps they deserved it a little bit more." * The National