Fans won't let it rain on their parade

Ecstatic French supporters outside the Luzhniki Stadium after the final.
Ecstatic French supporters outside the Luzhniki Stadium after the final.PHOTO: REUTERS

Sha la la la la la la, championne du monde... sha la la la la la la, championne du monde!

It began with a whisper before gradually building into a full-blooded, climatic crescendo.

The heartfelt chorus sung by the French faithful in the Luzhniki Stadium stand behind the goal after their nation's second World Cup triumph was a reflection of how their team cruised through the group stage in first gear, before turning it on in Sunday's 4-2 final win over Croatia.

In between songs of praise for Les Bleus, Remi Durand summed it up for The Straits Times: "France played the perfect tournament. We were always in control, we were unstoppable!" And so were the fans.

The skies opened for a second time in the evening but the fans refused to take cover, continuing to bounce on their seats, and revelling in the magical moment of their team lifting the World Cup trophy.

There were fans who had been at the Stade de France in 1998 when they won their first world title, those who endured the embarrassing upheavals and humiliating defeats by South Africa and Belarus, and many still hurting from the near misses at the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2016. But, on a glorious day in Moscow, the pain was washed away once and for all.

Sabine Delattre said: "It was not easy, it was frustrating because we know we have good players. If only they could work together, they would be great. This year, they did it, and look at what they have achieved."

 

With just 34 per cent possession, France have pioneered a new way to conquer the world. Their prodigious talents drove the final nail in tiki-taka's coffin and showed everyone how to soak and strike, with pace and panache, diligence and deadly finishing.

Their fans sang about how they have N'Golo Kante on the left, right and in the middle and Kylian Mbappe up front, as they hailed a new generation of heroes under the fireworks.

They were well and truly in dreamland when the players ran into the stands to celebrate with them before wheeling away like kids, waving the tricoloured flag and diving spread-eagled onto the wet and slippery pitch.

Outside the stadium, the revelry continued on the streets of Moscow, particularly on iconic Nikolskaya Street, where flags were waved and the French national anthem proved a recurrent theme.

Pierre Archibald shared with ST: "Yesterday was our National Day, today we win the World Cup, and tomorrow is my first wedding anniversary, I don't think I can feel any happier.

"Maybe it will be overtaken when I have my first child but, for that to happen, I have to set many alarms so I don't miss my flight tomorrow morning. But it'll be difficult, we are going to party all night long! Hey, we are champions of the world!"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'Fans won't let it rain on their parade'. Print Edition | Subscribe