Huge crowds in Doha greet Asian Cup winners
Qatar's victorious Asian Cup football team returned home to Doha to a rapturous welcome on Saturday, greeted by the country's ruler and hundreds of thousands of fans.
Emir Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al Thani met the players as they landed to kick-start a second straight night of wild celebrations in Doha.
"I am very happy to see the people celebrating with us, we realise how big what we did is," said coach Felix Sanchez.
"When you win a trophy like that you feel very proud, to see that the hard work sometimes gives you the reward."
The players were also greeted by other members of the royal family and the head of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, who supplied the plane for the team to travel back from Oman.
Their aircraft was given a fly-past by Mirage jets, there was a military band and the squad were presented with garlands as they finally disembarked.
Amid chaotic scenes, players and staff were mobbed by fans, friends and family before getting on a specially decorated open-top bus to begin the long crawl into Doha to meet the huge numbers who had waited patiently for them to arrive.
"I am proud to make these people happy," said Almoez Ali, the tournament's top scorer.
"I am proud of this thing and all the players are. For 40 years Qatari people did not celebrate, now we will celebrate for the next four years and not stop."
Captain Hassan Al Haydos called the unexpected triumph and celebrations "an unthinkable feeling" that would "stay with me for life".
Fans waited patiently for several hours to watch the team's parade through central Doha.
Huge crowds crammed on to the Corniche, the main seafront road in the city, to catch a glimpse of their heroes. Supporters ran alongside the bus as it crawled through the capital.
An air of jubilation has engulfed Qatar ever since the team trounced rivals the United Arab Emirates in the semi-final 4-0 to ensure their first final.
Since Friday's 3-1 final victory over Japan, celebrations throughout the country have barely stopped. It was Qatar's first Asian Cup triumph.
Straight after the victory, thousands of Qataris flooded the streets - and roads - to revel in their team's success.
They waved huge national flags as the patriotic song "Shomela" blasted out. Some fans have put stickers simply reading "4-0" on their cars.
The Asian Cup triumph is the 2022 World Cup hosts' biggest footballing victory, far eclipsing their three Gulf Cup victories. - AFP