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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 20:21 GMT 21:21 UK
Greece welcomes back squad
Greece striker Angelos Charisteas shows off the Euro 2004 trophy to thousands of fans gathered in the old Olympic stadium in Athens
The Greeks have made football history. It's a sensation
Greece coach Otto Rehhagel
The Greek football team received a heroes' welcome when they celebrated their Euro 2004 triumph with thousands of fans in Athens on Monday.

The team paraded the trophy at a packed Panathenaic stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

"We never thought we could make you so happy. Thank you," Greece captain Theodoros Zagorakis, named player of the tournament, told the crowd.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said it was "a great moment of joy".

"Greece is on the lips of everyone in the world who follows this mass and magical sport called football," he added.

More than 100,000 people in and around the stadium sang the national anthem and chanted "God is German" to honour coach Otto Rehhagel, who has been offered Greek citizenship.

Rehhagel told the crowds: "Greeks can be proud of their team."

Crowds inside the stadium sang and danced when the team arrived, and several players took off their shirts and danced in front of the crowd.

The players were offered Christian Orthodox crosses by the leader of the Greek church, Archbishop Christodoulos.

Greek fans gather in the old Olympic stadium in Athens to celebrate the country's triumph in Euro 2004
Thousands gathered in Athens to celebrate the team's triumph
The players had been due at the stadium at 1830 BST, but the ceremony had to be delayed by two hours as the bus carrying the team inched its way through streets thronged with people waving the country's blue and white flag.

Tens of thousands of fans lined the 25-mile route between the airport and the centre of Athens.

Earlier, the players' plane taxied through an arch of water made by two fire engines.

Rehhagel and his players, many wearing their medals, were presented with flowers and the fans cheered as they displayed the Henri Delaunay trophy.

Police had said they would ban all traffic along the route from the airport at least one hour before the plane touched down.

But it did not stop a crowd of about 1,500 people from gathering to welcome back their heroes, beating drums and singing the national anthem.

Prime Minister Karamanlis urged Greeks to join the celebrations - but use the Euro 2004 euphoria as a shot in the arm for its last-minute rush to be ready for the Olympic Games.

Dogged by construction delays, the city is struggling to be ready for the opening ceremony on 13 August.

"These boys taught us a lesson as to what Greeks can do when we really believe in something," said Karamanlis.

Figo comes Acropolis
A Plato-smashing night for Greece
A feta compli
Ouzo clever boy then
Ab-Zorbing night for the Greeks
What a pitta for Portugal
The boys donner good
Portugal are Zeus-less
Greece Troyumph
"This is the best passport, the best invitation for the Olympics, because this great Greek summer continues in one-and-a half months with the Games."

It is understood the Government is not planning a public holiday to mark the triumph.

"We have a full office working here just like any other day and I'm not aware of any plans for a public holiday," said a spokesman for the Athens 2004 organising committee.

Millions of fans had taken to the streets on Sunday night, in cars or on foot, jumping into fountains, scaling buildings and unfurling a sea of blue and white flags.

Fire trucks and police cars joined the party, parading along with the crowd through the capital.

Greece players Giourkas Seitaridis and Stelios Giannakopoulos hold aloft the Euro 2004 trophy as the team arrive at Athens airport
The Greece players were lauded as soon as they arrived at the airport
The ancient Acropolis was lit by fireworks while cannons under the city's Lycabetus hill fired celebratory shots to hail Greece's 1-0 victory over Portugal, courtesy of Angelos Haristeas' header.

Radio stations on Monday played traditional syrtaki music to keep Athenians in the party spirit, and even political newspapers wore the national colours of blue-and-white around full-page pictures of the squad.

"They lifted Greece to the top of Europe," ran the headline of Eleftheros Typos.

"We won, break down the gates, our boys return as champions," said Ethnos, in reference to the ancient Greek custom of tearing down a section of the city walls to welcome returning Olympic winners.

A small country of 11m people, many Greeks saw in their victory a symbolic ascendancy for their country.

Our national soccer team's epic achievement in the European soccer championship in Portugal is a lesson that fortune not only smiles on the brave but also on those who put up a passionate fight and work systematically and steadily to achieve their aims.
Kathimerini, Greek English-language newspaper

"Greeks can enjoy the fact that they can look other Europeans eye to eye, without an inferiority complex," said 44-year old Greek Costas Kokkaras.

SporTime wrote "God please give us more tears so we can keep crying from happiness."

But it was a banner hanging from a suburban Athens street that most defined the Greek mood.

"If this is a dream, then I never want to wake up," it said.

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