Qatar’s victorious Asian Cup football team returned home to Doha to a rapturous welcome on Saturday, greeted by the country’s ruler and hundreds of thousands of fans.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani -- who happily high-fived children while waiting for the team to arrive -- met the players as they landed to kick-start a second straight night of wild celebrations in Doha.
‘I am very happy to see the people celebrating with us, we realise how big what we did is,’ said coach Felix Sanchez.
‘When you win a trophy like that you feel very proud, to see that the hard work sometimes gives you the reward.’
The players were also greeted by other members of the royal family, and the head of Qatar Airways, Akbar al-Baker, who supplied the plane for the team to travel back from Oman.
Their aircraft was given a fly-past by Mirage jets, there was a military band, and the squad were presented with garlands as they finally disembarked.
Amid chaotic scenes players and staff were mobbed by fans, friends and family before getting on a specially decorated open top bus to begin the long crawl into Doha to meet the huge numbers who had waited patiently for them to arrive.
‘I am proud to make these people happy,’ said Ali Almoez, the tournament’s top scorer. ‘I am proud of this thing and all the players are.’
Fans waited patiently for several hours to watch the team’s parade through central Doha.
Huge crowds crammed on to the Corniche, the main seafront road in the city, to catch a glimpse of their heroes.
Supporters ran alongside the bus as it crawled through the capital.
An air of jubilation has engulfed Qatar ever since the team trounced rivals the United Arab Emirates in the semi-final 4-0 to ensure their first final.
Since Friday’s 3-1 final victory over Japan, celebrations throughout the country have barely stopped.
It was Qatar’s first ever Asian Cup triumph.
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