Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Paris to celebrate the historic French win over Italy in the Euro 2000 final Sunday as soon as David Trezeguet had blasted in the Golden Goal winner.
In similar circumstances to the World Cup win in 1998, the Champs Elysees was awash with people from Place de la Concorde right up to the symbolic Arc de Triomphe, built to honour French military victories.
All traffic was halted in and around the broad boulevard. Police said that over 400,000 people had converged on the famous avenue barely one hour after the game had finished.
Blue lasers were projected on to the Arc to mark the occasion with victory slogans such as "King David" in homage to the match winner.
The celebrations were mainly well-ordered at first, but riot police using tear gas were in action in the early hours of the morning as they charged groups of youths who had begun flinging bottles and beer cans.
Police said 16 officers were injured and 31 out of some 400 youths were arrested.
Cars and motor-cycles were damaged and shop windows were smashed before order was gradually restored and traffic resumed.
Crowds of fans invaded other popular Parisian focal points such as Place de la Bastille where some fans tried to scale the imposing central column.
It was the first time that France had won a major tournament outside France. Their other triumphs were in the 1998 World cup, and in 1984 European championships, both won on home soil.
Thousands of fans gathered at the central Hotel de Ville esplanade erupted into chants of "we've won, we've won" "we are the champions" to acclaim Trezeguet's 103th minute strike after the game had finished 1-1 in the regulation 90 minutes.
The win makes France the first team in history to win the World Cup, as they did in 1998, and follow up by winning the European title.
French flags were flying blue, white and red as the crowds made their way into the surrounding city streets. Thousands more had also watched the game on a giant screen at the Charlety Stadium in the 13th district.
National flags from Algeria, Morocco and Lebanon were also seen in a tribute to the multi-national makeup of the French national side. Star player Zinedine Zidane, notably, has Algerian roots.
Car horns blared throughout the city, fireworks were set off, and champagne corks popped.
Similar scenes were being played out in other French cities such as Lille, Grenoble, Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux.
But the celebrations soon turned sour in the southern French city of Marseille where several people were injured and arrests were made in the old port district, an AFP reporter said.
French President Jacques Chirac said he was proud of his team's come-from-behind victory.
Chirac, who with Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was present at the match, said: "This is an immense joy for all French people. We are proud of this victory. The France team has had an exceptional adventure, extraordinary and unique.
"I am proud of France, for the French people. I would like to send a big thank you to (France’s coach) Roger Lemerre who was remarkable, and our captain Didier Deschamps, and all the team."
Chirac then headed off to the dressing room to visit the players.
His entourage revealed that Chirac had been telephoned on his mobile immediately after the match finished by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who congratulated him.
In Lemerre's home town of Bricquebec near the Belgian border the inhabitants watched the match on a giant TV screen erected in the gymnasium.
The scenes of joy were in total contrast to the Italian capital Rome where the screams of joy that greeted Marco Delvecchio's 55th minute opener turned into an eery silence at the end.
Thousands had gathered to watch the match on a giant screen at Castel Sant'Angelo near the Vatican, but after the joy of the opening Italian goal, the mood turned sour as Sylvain Wiltord equalised for France four minutes into injury time.
The Via del Corso and Piazza del Popolo, traditional centres for celebrations after Italian sporting triumphs, were deserted half an hour after the match had ended.
The French football authorities announced that the triumphant French players would be feted Monday along the Champs Elysees with a ceremony being held from the balcony of the Hotel Crillon on Place de la Concorde at one end of the avenue.
The team will present the Henri Delaunay Trophy to their supporters at 4:00 p.m. (1400 GMT) after arriving from Rotterdam at Roissy airport.
They will be transferred by bus to the Stade de France - scene of their 1998 World Cup victory - before travelling in another coach to the Hotel Crillon -- (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)