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Berlin: When the world turned azure

It took Italy 64 games and a month of football to get there and till South Africa comes, that is where the Azzurris will stay, writes Dhiman Sarkar.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2006 01:36 IST

Marco Materazzi repeatedly stroked the bald pate of the World Cup trophy. Symbolic, you would think. The queues for beer grew longer at the kiosks behind the press area and O sole mio (There's no tomorrow) was just one of the songs the Italians sang as they spilled into the streets of Berlin late on Sunday.

Snowed by glitters and streamers, the Olympiastadion looked like fairyland. It took Italy 64 games and a month of football to get there and till South Africa comes, that is where the Azzurris will stay.

As Fabien Barthez slumped by his goalpost and Lillian Thuram wept, celebrations broke out at the other end of pitch. Till he braked and slumped near the corner-flag, no one knew where Fabio Grosso was going after his goal ended the final. Grosso wasn't even five when Dino Zoff brought the cup home and maybe that explains the wild show of joy.

Gennaro Gattuso had thrown his shorts to the crowd but didn't mind diving to the ground repeatedly in briefs after trying in vain to use an Italian flag as a substitute. He was four when Paolo Rossi made a Spanish summer.

After breaking out into wild dances that included jumping around a chair, the Italians linked arms in front of the podium as the Queen track 'We are the champions of the world' was played and 'You'll never walk alone' followed. It seemed like a circle of hope for a sport tarnished, perhaps beyond repair, back home.

The on-line edition of the Corriere della Sera summed it up well in a front-page article. “We think that after the phone taps, the accusations, the intrigue and the fraud, each one of the Azzurri returned for a month to what they were when they were lads on the street, when football was a dream, not a racket."

Gianluigi Buffon led the players's march to take the trophy closer to the Italian fans. Most of them were in one corner of the stadium but they hadn't abandoned screaming 'Forza Italia' even when Thierry Henry was making their boys look second-best. Gratitude for such support had to be showed even if it meant being mobbed by a battery of photographers whom the FIFA media officer desperately tried to push back.

The French left the massive stadium saying 'it is easy to buy a referee in Italy' just like a German woman earlier in the day declared that 'we will never eat pizza again' but the Azzurris were in the own world now, one where only champions are allowed access. For all his angst, Raymond Domenech accepted that, saying "only the winner is remembered. My congratulations to Italy."

All of Sunday was like a party here with Berliners beating the searing afternoon heat to show their appreciation of the home team. The mood continued into the final evening when Il Divo and Toni Braxton kicked off the programme with the World Cup song 'Time of our lives'.

In an orange outfit, Shakira then united the French and the Italians --- sitting diagonally opposite to each other on either side of the pitch --- the German majority in the audience and everyone else with "Bamboo". Cannavaro and Zidane hugged before kick-off and there was Placido Domingo's tenor for half-time entertainment.

And when the TV screens flashed 'champions Italy', the inky sky was lit up by a synchronised display of fireworks. Zidane soured it somewhat but everything else about the evening provided a fitting end to a month-long party.