FIFA World Cup 2018: They could have danced all night, Parisians celebrate team’s semifinal win
Chants of ‘Vive la France’ filled the air and perfect strangers became friends as Paris came out on the streets to celebrate France’s 1-0 victory over neighbouring Belgium in the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup.
Football frenzy was at its peak in the City of Love last night as joyous Parisians walked towards Arc de Triomphe, an iconic landmark honouring those who lost their lives for the country in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, to celebrate their team’s first entry into the finals since 2006. If France wins the finals this year, it will be the end of a two-decade dry spell. The disdainful “don’t-bother-me” look from Parisians that often leaves lost tourists intimidated and hesitant to ask for directions melted away last night, to be replaced by a sense of belonging and shared pride. Parisians wanted everyone to party, many dancing around tourists and happily photobombing their selfies.
Those inside their homes, glued to their TV screens to catch the minute-to-minute action of the semifinal in Russia, turned up in their balconies to wave at the celebratory crowd. In this ocean of humans, children sat perched on their parents’ shoulders to get a better view of the celebrations, perhaps as scenic and memorable as the hospitality seats in the St Petersburg Stadium. Some fans climbed street lamps, waving the French flag, as other merrymakers sang and danced their way through the night. For once, those stuck in traffic did not seem to mind the madness, and proceeded to capture the celebratory mood on their smartphones. “We are really happy to have won. It is after 20 years. It is time to celebrate,” a jubilant fan told PTI.
Beer and wine flowed as cafes and sports bars catered to football maniacs, some wearing the team’s football jersey and many painting French colours on their faces. The Champs-Elysees, the main street leading up to the Arc, became a mass party venue with thousands of fans dancing and bursting firecrackers as Gendarmes were deployed on the sides to ensure safety and security. But the celebrations turned sour hours later when some overzealous football fans got unruly. Over dozen people switched into riot gear - dancing on top of traffic light signals with their shirts off, bursting firecrackers and skating on dividers.
The police cordoned off the Arc as fans raced around in their cars, bikes and cycles. When asked if they would be on duty the entire night, one officer answered through gritted teeth with an affirmative. The merrymaking forced a traffic shutdown in the heart of the city as the streets tried to accommodate the surging crowd. The French team will have to wait to see who they are up against in the finals after England and Croatia battle it out in the semifinal tonight. Being in the semis is no mean feat but fans in France are now rooting for their team to clinch their second World Cup, snatching victory from the hands of traditional rival England.