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Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK

Turks go wild with joy

By Jonny Dymond
BBC Turkey correspondent, Istanbul

Under the brilliant sunshine, Istanbul is celebrating.

There was an explosion of joy as Turkey's goal went into the net.

Fans, who for 90 excruciating minutes had watched player after player miss open goals, leapt into the air screaming with joy.

Then, almost as one, they streamed out of the tiny side streets into the central boulevard and into the main square, Taksim.

" Now, here in Taksim Square, you would be hard pushed to find a Turk who is not convinced that the trophy will be theirs. "

The whole square was jam-packed with overjoyed Turks, punching the air, yelling with delight, swaying and jigging to the music being belted out by a sound system on one side of the square.

And everywhere there were Turkish flags - the white crescent and star on a vivid red background.

Two huge flags were draped over the Cultural building that dominates one side of the square, in between them a vast portrait of Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk; on the stage, on another side of the square, a man manically waved another flag; and in the hands or on the heads and shoulders of almost everyone, more flags.

Woes behind

The past few years have been tough for the Turks: an earthquake in 1999 killed over 20,000 and smashed their most important industrial zones.

An economic crisis that started in November 2000 has thrown a million people out of work and slashed the standard of living. And the continuing illness of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has paralysed the political system.

On Saturday afternoon as Ilhan Mansiz smacked the ball into the back of the Senegal net, all those woes were forgotten.

For all the big talk that surrounds major tournaments, few Turks thought they would get as far as the semi-finals - they had only qualified once before in 1954.

Now, here in Taksim Square, you would be hard pushed to find a Turk who is not convinced that the trophy will be theirs.

The music is pounding, thousands of flags wave, smiles are everywhere. This party is only beginning.

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