Spain Planning to Celebrate Regardless of Result

Madrid, Jul 9 (DPA): Spain is planning to celebrate as never before, whether their football team manages to win Sunday's World Cup final or not.

La Roja face the Netherlands in the final in Johannesburg, and almost half of the Spanish population is expected to watch at least some part of the match.

With each victory that Vicente del Bosque's team has scored in South Africa, a new television audience record for a sporting event has been established.

Spain have never before reached the World Cup final, though their triumph at Euro 2008 was a kind of dress rehearsal for the euphoria and celebrations of this past month.

Thousands of outdoor World Cup parties are being planned for Sunday up and down the country. The biggest will be outside Real Madrid's Estadio Bernabeu, where around 30,000 fans are expected to gather.

There will be special festivities in Pamplona, which is packed with tourists this week because of the world-famous San Fermin bull-running fiestas.

Massive parties will also be held in Sevilla, Granada, Valencia, Barcelona and Bilbao.

Catalonia and the Basque Country, two regions traditionally indifferent or even hostile to the Spanish national team, have been caught up in the "Red Fever" that has swept across the country in the past four weeks.

The city council of Barcelona refused to set up a giant screen for people to see Spain's first three matches in South Africa. But the public outcry against this refusal was so strong that the council back-tracked and put up a screen to show the last three matches.

"Red Fever" is so powerful in Catalonia largely because seven of Del Bosque's starting lineup are Barcelona players.

Some of the most impassioned parties will be those held in the villages of the players.

For example, in Pobla de Segur in Lleida province - the town of defender Carles Puyol, who scored Spàin's winning goal in Wednesday's semi-final against Germany - there will be a massive outdoor party Sunday.

"We are very proud of Carles," local shopkeeper Joan Reventos told Television Espanola. "Sunday will be a party day here, whether we win or lose."

It will be a similar story in Langreo, the small Asturian mining town where striker David Villa grew up, and in Fuentealbilla, the village in Albacete province where midfielder Andres Iniesta was born and raised.

Many shopkeepers and bar owners have already made a handsome profit out of the World Cup - and are planning to make one last killing Sunday.

Juan Linares, owner of an important restaurant in Toldeo, told Antena 3 that "the World Cup has been very good for business. It was just what we needed after this recession."

Sales of Spanish flags, shirts and vuvuzelas have been strong. Radio station Cadena COPE said on Friday that the market has been cornered by Chinese shopkeepers, and that most of the merchandise has been imported directly from China.

And what will happen Monday, the day after the grand finale?

Win or lose, La Roja will fly into Madrid on Monday evening and drive through the packed streets on what the city council has dubbed "a historic celebratory parade."

The parade will start in Moncloa, seat of the government, and will pass through Plaza de Espana, Gran Via, Cibeles, Neptuno, Atocha and the Royal Palace Palacio Real, to finish along the Manzanares river close to Atletico Madrid's stadium.

Two years ago the celebrations for the Euro 2008 finished in Madrid's Plaza de Colon. Deputy mayor Manuel Cobo said that the banks of the Manzanares had been chosen this time "because far more people are expected to attend."




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