It’s an earlier return than they would have hoped for but Colombia’s national football team has been received in Bogotá with a hero’s welcome following their World Cup elimination.
Fans lined the streets, blocked traffic and packed out the El Campín stadium to get a glimpse of their returning sporting superstars on Thursday, two days after their Round of 16 loss in penalties to England.
An estimated 25,000 fans created a sea of yellow, blue and red in the stadium as the squad addressed the crowd and received letters of appreciation from adoring young fans.
The biggest cheers were reserved for Colombian coach José Pékerman and team captain Radamel Falcao, who both thanked the country for their belief and passion in this year’s group.
A police motorcade was required to escort the team bus from El Dorado airport at about 10am today. Detours were established as the team and their entourage made their way down Avenida El Dorado to Carrera 50, through Carrera 50 to Route 63 and onto the stadium. At points traffic came to a complete standstill as thousands lined the streets to greet the arriving team.
Later, the team was surrounded by police on foot as they toured the pitch of El Campín stadium to the cheers of their adorning public.
Mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa said on Wednesday people simply wanted to show their gratitude to the team, who finished atop of Group H in the competition.
“We want to thank them for all the joys they gave us, to have united all Colombians, regardless of our political inclinations, of the regions of all, to unite as a country,” he said.
“We want to thank them for what they did, what they achieved, that is why we have that event tomorrow, with all the affection and gratitude to our team.”
The free concert also included a performance from reggaeton superstar Sebastián Yatra, who performed the hits Robarte Un Beso and Traicionera before the team took to the stage.
It was an uneven campaign for the Colombian team, nicknamed Los Cafeteros. A red card, penalty and eventual loss to Japan in the opening group match was tempered by solid wins against Poland and Senegal. The Round of 16 match went down to the wire with Colombia falling at the last hurdle. England’s 4-3 advantage on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie saw the Three Lions advance while Colombia’s hopes of repeating a run to the quarterfinals came to an end.