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Tens of Thousands of Brazilians Welcome Their Winning Team - 2002-07-02

Brazilians welcomed home their national football team Tuesday following its World Cup victory Sunday in which Brazil won the title for the fifth time. The team's first stop was in Brasilia where it was greeted by Brazil's president, and an estimated 200,000 fans.

To the throbbing beat of the samba, tens of thousands of Brazilians cheered the team members as they slowly made their way on top of a fire truck along a fifteen kilometer route from the airport in Brasilia to the Presidential palace. Many in the crowd waved the green, yellow, and blue flag of Brazil, while others wore the team's distinctive canary yellow shirt. Air force planes flew overhead during the parade, leaving long trails of smoke across the blue sky.

At the palace, the team was greeted by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who awarded each member with the National Order of Merit. A huge yellow banner with five-stars was draped over part of the building, symbolizing Brazil's five World Cup titles since 1958.

The players said they never expected such a huge and festive homecoming. Rivaldo, one of the team's top scorers, told TV Globo he was overwhelmed by the welcome.

"It's very emotional," he said. "I've never been a world champion before, since in 1998 we lost to France, so this party is very special for me," he said. From Brasilia, the national team flew to Rio de Janeiro where a parade and more celebrations awaited, and then onto Sao Paulo, the last stop in its triumphal return.