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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
Wild welcome for Euro champions
Thousands crowded into the Place de la Concorde
Jubilant French fans have turned out in their thousands to give a triumphant welcome to their footballers, the newly crowned champions of Europe.

The team arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport on Monday afternoon, descending the steps of the aeroplane to the strains of the Marseillaise.

"I have my medal around my neck. I'm happy," said defender Marcel Desailly.

Fans celebrating at Paris city hall
Wild celebrations outside the city hall
The team then headed to the Place de la Concorde, near the Champs Elysees in central Paris, to salute fans from the five-star Hotel de Crillon.

Clouds and torrential rain cleared just in time for the team's appearance on the hotel balcony.

There were wild cheers from the ecstatic crowd as the Henri Delaunay Cup was held aloft by each of the players in turn.

Zinedine Zidane, the team's inspiration throughout the tournament, appeared on the balcony with a new look, having shaved his already balding head overnight.

One player slipped away early from the celebrations, but he had a good excuse - the ponytailed Emmanuel Petit left early to get married.

Two years ago, France's World Cup final victory over Brazil sparked an an all-night party, with roughly a million people on the Champs Elysees.

Chants and cheers

This time, a massive blue football shirt was draped across a nearby building to welcome the heroes home.

Some 12 hours earlier, the streets of the capital had resounded to chants and cheers as the national side's 2-1 victory over Italy sparked huge celebrations.

Fans unfurled French tricolours, singing "We are the champions".

The biggest party was on the Champs Elysees, where hundreds of thousands of revellers danced and sang as flares lit up the night sky.

Giving thanks

Traffic was halted and the Arc de Triomphe was lit up with giant neon letters spelling "Merci".

Tonight, I am proud of France and I am proud of the French. The French team has kept its genius

President Jacques Chirac
From the moment of the final whistle, thousands of people joined the chorus of chanting and blaring car horns.

There were a number of stand-offs between fans and riot police, but not enough to overshadow the jubilant mood.

Street celebrations also took place in towns and villages around the country.

A 35-year-old salesman, Jean-Jacques Jemba-Lobe stopped jumping up and down for a moment to hold up a photograph of his four-year-old son and grin with pride.

"You see this kid? Look hard, because in 15 years he's going to replace those guys who were out on the field tonight," he said.

The French President, Jacques Chirac, who attended the game, went on live television to congratulate the nation.

He said: "Tonight, I am proud of France and I am proud of the French. The French team has kept its genius."

Monday's newspapers echoed his sentiment, greeting the national team's achievement in becoming the first reigning world champions to win the European championships with headlines of "Invincible" and "Monumental".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Coomarasamy in Paris
"Thousands turned out to celebrate another famous French victory"

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Euro 2000
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03 Jul 00 | France
02 Jul 00 | Euro2000
03 Jul 00 | England
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02 Jul 00 | Sportstalk
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