Palmeiras fans gather to celebrate Copa Libertadores win

·2-min read

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Thousands of Palmeiras fans ignored social distancing rules to gather at different points across Sao Paulo on Saturday night to celebrate their team’s victory in the Copa Libertadores.

Breno Lopes scored a stoppage time header that gave Palmeiras a 1-0 win over Santos and their first Libertadores win since 1999.

The Copa Libertadores is South America’s equivalent of the Champions League and the result at Rio’s Maracana stadium was greeted with delirious celebrations back in Palmeiras' home city of Sao Paulo.

Thousands partied on the streets around the club’s stadium the Allianz Parque, even after police closed some streets to try and prevent large gatherings.

Few people wore masks and police kept their distance as fans oblivious to the pandemic let off fireworks and danced and chanted into the night.

“If I die today then I’ll die happy,” said one fan, Gabriel Firmino. “Palmeiras is my life, I’ll die happy with Palmeiras as champions.”

Although coronavirus restrictions dictate lockdown at weekends and evenings in Sao Paulo state, those rules were ignored and hundreds of more fans gathered at the club’s Training Centre and the airport, where their plane touched down in the early hours of the morning.

The victory in a lacklustre final was the biggest win for Palmeiras in decades.

The team won the Sao Paulo state championship in August and have already qualified for the final of the Copa do Brasil.

The Libertadores triumph in front of around 5,000 specially invited guests at an otherwise empty Maracana also takes them into the Club World Cup in Qatar next month, where they could face Bayern Munich, winners of the Champions League.

Another 1,279 coronavirus deaths were reported by Brazil's Health Ministry on Saturday, taking the overall death toll to 223,945, the second highest total in the world after the United States.

(Reporting by Pablo Garcia and Leonardo Benassatto in Sao Paulo; writing by Andrew Downie in London)