Jubilant crowds gather in Berlin to welcome German World Cup heroes

A German fan has his face painted with the German national colours as he waits in front of a stage installed for a victory parade of Germany's football national team on July 15, 2014 at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their FIFA World
A German fan has his face painted with the German national colours as he waits in front of a stage installed for a victory parade of Germany's football national team on July 15, 2014 at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their FIFA World Cup title. -- PHOTO: AFP
German fans wait in front of a stage installed for a victory parade of Germany's football national team on July 15, 2014 at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their FIFA World Cup title. -- PHOTO: AFP
German fans wait in front of a stage installed for a victory parade of Germany's football national team on July 15, 2014 at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their FIFA World Cup title. -- PHOTO: AFP
German fans gather in front of a giant screen and a stage installed for a victory parade of Germany's football national team on July 15, 2014 at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their FIFA World Cup title. -- PHOTO: AFP
German fans gather in front of a giant screen and a stage installed for a victory parade of Germany's football national team on July 15, 2014 at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their FIFA World Cup title. -- PHOTO: AFP
A German fan uses binoculars as he stands on the visitors terrace at Berlin airport Tegel on July 15, 2014, where the plane of German national football team is expected on their way back from Brazil after they won the FIFA World Cup 2014. -- PHOTO: A
A German fan uses binoculars as he stands on the visitors terrace at Berlin airport Tegel on July 15, 2014, where the plane of German national football team is expected on their way back from Brazil after they won the FIFA World Cup 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
German fans gather on the 17th of June street in Berlin on July 15, 2014, few hours before the victory parade of German national football team at landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their FIFA World Cup title. -- PHOTO: AFP
German fans gather on the 17th of June street in Berlin on July 15, 2014, few hours before the victory parade of German national football team at landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their FIFA World Cup title. -- PHOTO: AFP
German fans gather in front of giant screens replaying a FIFA World Cup football match of Germany on July 15, 2014, few hours before German national football team's victory parade at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their title. -- PHO
German fans gather in front of giant screens replaying a FIFA World Cup football match of Germany on July 15, 2014, few hours before German national football team's victory parade at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their title. -- PHOTO: AFP
A man holds a banner that reads "All you need is Loew, thank you guys, we take a bow" as German fans gather in front of a stage installed for a victory parade of Germany's football national team on July 15, 2014 at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate
A man holds a banner that reads "All you need is Loew, thank you guys, we take a bow" as German fans gather in front of a stage installed for a victory parade of Germany's football national team on July 15, 2014 at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to celebrate their FIFA World Cup title. -- PHOTO: AFP
German soccer fans cheer as they wait for the arrival of their team, winners of the 2014 World Cup, at a public viewing zone called 'fan mile' in Berlin,on July 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
German soccer fans cheer as they wait for the arrival of their team, winners of the 2014 World Cup, at a public viewing zone called 'fan mile' in Berlin,on July 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
German soccer fans cheer as they wait for the arrival of their team, winners of the 2014 World Cup, near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin,on July 15, 2014. Tens of thousands of jubilant Germany fans massed at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday awai
German soccer fans cheer as they wait for the arrival of their team, winners of the 2014 World Cup, near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin,on July 15, 2014. Tens of thousands of jubilant Germany fans massed at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday awaiting the arrival of the World Cup winners with a giant heroes’ welcome. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (AFP) - Tens of thousands of jubilant Germany fans massed at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday awaiting the arrival of the World Cup winners with a giant heroes’ welcome.

A flight bringing the triumphant players to the German capital took off with a delay from Rio de Janeiro and was due to land at around 4.30pm, an airport spokesman said.

Crowds began massing in central Berlin before dawn and thousands more supporters gathered on a viewing platform under warm summer sunshine at Tegel airport to meet the plane, a Lufthansa jet rebranded “Fanhansa” for the team. “This is a historic event,” said 34-year-old bus driver Bernd Hesse, who managed to follow all the matches in Brazil on the radio when he was behind the wheel.

He noted that Germany fans had waited 24 years to bask in the glory of a World Cup victory, the first since the reunification of the country.

“It’s not every day that you get to see something like this,” he said. Lydia Lampa, a 28-year-old advertising executive, stopped by the airport with a friend on her way to work.

Wearing a Germany jersey adorned with the coveted fourth star for the latest World Cup win and a Hawaiian-style garland of plastic flowers in the national colours black, red and gold, she said she had watched every World Cup match featuring the Mannschaft.

“This is my way of saying thank you,” she said. “All the games were exciting and I wanted to see the players at least once live. I had a good feeling from the start of the tournament and I though, ‘OK, this time we’re going to win’.”

A bus will ferry the Mannschaft to central Berlin.

After meeting Mayor Klaus Wowereit, they will mount a giant stage at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German unity since the country ended its Cold War division in 1990. That was the last year a German team won the tournament and Sunday’s nail-biter 1-0 win over Argentina marked the first time that a side representing both the west and the former communist east brought home the trophy.

More than 250,000 fans had rallied behind the German side on the so-called Fan Mile behind the Gate late Sunday and a similar turnout was expected Tuesday to watch the players and trainer Joachim Loew hoist the trophy.