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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Fans left wanting
Uruguay fans celebrate victory
Uruguay's fans are a sight and sound to behold
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

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Last week Uruguay were forced to cancel their send-off.

They had planned to face Ghana in Montevideo on 8 May, but had to scrap the idea after the difficulties of raising a side became increasingly apparent.

Many of their European-based players would not have been released in time.

And those with Uruguay's leading clubs were also unlikely to be available.

The success of Uruguayan clubs in this year's Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League, could cause problems to national team coach Victor Pua.

The Libertadores comes to a halt on 15 May. If the Penarol and Nacional are still involved, then Pua will be without key players for the trips to the United States on 12 May and China four days later.

So the Ghana game had to go. It was inevitable but unfortunate as world football has few experiences as stirring as a full Centenario Stadium in fine voice.

The magic partly derives from the setting.

The Centenario might not be the most exciting ground in the world from an architectual point of view, but it is bursting with tradition.

This, after all, was the scene of the first World Cup final.

One voice

A key part of the impact is the singing.

'Soy Celeste' - 'I am sky blue' - fulfills all the requirements of a great football song; it is simple, beautiful and magnificently stirring.

When taken up by 60,000 voices it is unforgettable.

'Soy Celeste' provided the backdrop as Uruguay qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990.

Throughout the qualification campaign the fans turned up in their thousands to inspire their young side.

Uruguay's current generation were introduced to senior international football in Paraguay at the 1999 Copa America.

Their first match was against Colombia.

The stadium was all but empty, with more police than supporters.

"No one travels anywhere to watch Uruguay," sneered a Brazilian journalist.

It seemed that he was correct. There was no one supporting the sky blues as they made surprise progress in the competition.

Uruguayan fans show their colours
When they beat Chile in the semi-final, the only celebrations were in the press box.

But on the day of the final it was a different story. Half of Montevideo appeared to have driven through the night to be there for the big occasion.

The streets of central Asuncion rocked to the rhythm of the Uruguayan drums and to the sound of 'Soy Celeste'.

The fans' banners proclaimed that "The sky blue shirt is still alive" - as the team have gone on to prove with their successful qualification campaign.

When the Ghana match was first announced it was reported as "a last chance to sing 'Soy Celeste'".

It is a shame that the fans will not now have the chance to sing their song and wave the flag.

Instead they will have to save their energy for the small hours of the morning when the action starts in June.

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