Chants of España, España, España echoed along James Street North in downtown Hamilton on a beautiful, sunny and comfortable Canada Day afternoon, following Spain’s stunning, though not unexpected, 4-0 win over Italy in the UEFA EURO 2012 soccer championship in Kyiv, Ukraine, seven time zones away.
Early in the tournament, James Street became the place to be for soccer fans in Hamilton, following wins by countries such as Portugal, Italy and Spain, all represented by communities in the city. Especially Italy. Following each Italy win, and more so later into the tournament, large crowds of supporters gathered, to the point where the Italy win over Germany shut down James with hundreds celebrating, some decked out in wigs, face paint, and even a gladiator costume.
The anticipation was high on Sunday for an even larger celebration should Italy win. The police made plans to shut off vehicular traffic and I hoped logical favourite Spain would find its match and Italy would prevail. After all, it would make for some great images.
Sitting in my car nearby, listening to the game on the radio with 15 minutes to go, it was clear Spain would win. Downtown seemed eerily quiet, perhaps not unusual for a Sunday. With the game over, I walked a couple blocks to James Street, passing a few subdued Italy fans, dressed in azure jerseys walking the other way. Still very quiet, I reached James to find perhaps 30-40 Italy fans quietly milling around on the sidewalk and in the middle of the street. The police shut down traffic as soon as the game ended, but there were hardly any Spain supporters in sight. A woman draped in a Spanish flag danced in the middle of the street near the Italy fans. It was underwhelming. A quick walk a couple blocks south and back was disheartening. I contemplated a quick exit for home to get equipment ready for the night’s fireworks at Bayfront Park.
Slowly more and more Spain supporters arrived, perhaps initially stymied by the road closure that prevented the usual parade of flag-draped cars slowly driving by, honking their horns. CHCH TV was there, with a few Italy fans jostling to get in front of and block the Spain fans. All in good fun.
That seemed to get the Spain fans worked up a bit. Soon a critical mass of young fans gathered in the middle of the street chanting to a drumbeat and a real street party got underway. Well, at least for 30 minutes before police on a mounted patrol pushed everyone back to the sidewalks, restoring the street to traffic.
But of course that wasn’t the end of it. Now those in cars were able to join the party and parade through, extending the the revelry another 30 minutes, until the crowds on the sidewalks slowly dissipated.
It was fun, definitely worth sticking around for the experience. I still wish Italy had won, as the party would likely have been many times longer and more intense. So, there’s hope for next time, the World Cup in 2014.
Some more images:
For even more images in a gallery, click on the image below:
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV (now replaced by the 1DX) and Leica M9
Canon EF70-200 f/4L IS
Leica Summilux-M 21mm f1.4 ASPH.
Leica Summicron-M 28mm f2 ASPH.
Leica Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH.
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