By Anna Gustafson
Astoria streets swelled with Spanish pride Sunday when Spain won its first World Cup and fans decked out in red jerseys poured from Casa Galicia to celebrate the victory over the Netherlands with good-natured mayhem. People from throughout the globe waved Spanish flags, smoked victory cigars, broke down crying on the sidewalks and screamed over and over “¡Viva Espana!”
“This is what everyone in Spain has been waiting for all their lives,” Martine Ortega, of Galicia, Spain, said of his home country’s 1-0 win witnessed by hundreds of millions of people around the world. “For this to happen is too huge to even explain. It has never happened before. Espana! Espana!”
Ortega was one of thousands of people to crowd into Casa Galicia, a Spanish community center on 31st Avenue in Astoria that was recommended to fans from throughout the region by the Spanish embassy. Fans from Queens, throughout the city, outside the state and, of course, Spain spent the game that went into two overtimes pounding their fists on tables filled with fried calamari, chorizo, bottles of rioja and cans of Etrella Galicia beer.
Following Andres Iniesta’s goal in the second overtime, fans who had spent much of the game on edge erupted into ecstasy and ran into the Astoria streets where some of them greeted passing traffic by stripping down to their skivvies, pumping their fists into the air and waving the Spanish flag that was no doubt being flown by millions across the world. Revelers beat drums, danced, lit many a cigar, gave strangers hugs and even hit the sidewalk crying with joy.
“Today is a big, big day,” said Ramon Vicente, a former Galicia resident who now lives in New Jersey. “It was very, very tough, but we won. We are so happy.”
Many of those who watched the final game of the World Cup played in South Africa Sunday said they had rooted throughout the tournament for Spain, which won the European Championship in Vienna in 2008, but had never landed a World Cup title before this week.
A total of 32 teams competed in the World Cup, which was hosted by an African nation for the first time in the competition’s history. The Federation International de Football Association estimated the final game would be the most widely viewed sports event in recorded history, beating out the 700 million people who watched the 2006 World Cup.
“It’s interesting to see how the world can unite because of this,” said Hugo Bravo, a Kew Gardens resident whose girlfriend is from Spain. “Here we are, rooting for a team that’s not the United States and we still feel united.”
Yvette Ramirez of Elmhurst and Diana Gonzalez of Woodside said they began the World Cup rooting for Argentina and France, respectively, but gladly began cheering for Spain when their two favorites were weeded out.
“There’s Asia, Africa, South America — the World Cup is universal,” Ramirez said. “It’s the only sport that brings everybody together.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.