A sea of red greeted the conquering heroes of Anfield on Sunday as the winners of the European Champions League returned home to Liverpool.
Hundreds of thousands of fans, most wearing red scarves and waving flags lined the route as manager Jurgen Klopp and his team toured the city in an open-topped bus. A huge banner with the words “Champions of Europe” covered the front of the bus. On the back of the bus was the number 6, a tribute to the number of times Liverpool have lifted the trophy.
Traffic in Liverpool came to a standstill with major roads across the city blocked as people have turned out to welcome home the team. Every available roadside vantage point was used by fans trying to get the best view of the parade.
Flares trailing red smoke were let off as the bus passed, with many fans chanting the club’s European anthem, Allez, Allez, Allez.
It was Klopp’s first silverware as manager of this year’s Premier League runners-up and the first time since 2005 when Liverpool last lifted Europe’s greatest football prize in a dramatic final in Istanbul.
The Liverpool squad arrived with the cup at Liverpool John Lennon Airport to prepare for their victory parade, with Klopp and team skipper Jordan Henderson both clutching the trophy as they left their jet followed by the team.
The streets along the route were crowded hours before the bus set off, with the city’s World Heritage Site waterfront crammed with fans.
From the air it looked as though Liverpool had been painted red, as fans from babes in arms to veteran supporters who had cheered their Kop heroes since the club’s first European Cup win in 1977.
There were loud cheers as Mohamed Salah and teammate Divock Origi as well as Henderson held the trophy.
Salah had put Liverpool in the lead within two minutes as he propelled the ball into the back of the net with a penalty shot in the final against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.
Just minutes before the final whistle, substitute Divock Origi sealed the win with a kick to make it 2-0.
One fan in the crowd at Allerton Maze where the parade started told Xinhua: “It’s a wonderful day for Liverpool, well at least half of the city,” a reference to the city’s rival team Everton.
The fan, in his 50s, added: “I just couldn’t watch the final 15 minutes of the game. I would have had no nails left and my nerves just couldn’t take it.”
But many Everton fans were happy to hail their neighbors from across Stanley Park which separates the Anfield and Goodson Park teams.
Klopp, his famous smile beaming as he saw crowds running into hundreds of thousands of fans lining the streets said: “This is sensational, the best moment for sure. This is for the people here today and around the world.”
For Klopp, the victory Saturday night in Madrid against London team Tottenham Hotspur helped him bury ghosts of the past.
Last year Liverpool reached the final of the European Champions League, only to be beaten by Real Madrid, and in 2013 Klopp had led Borussia Dortmund into the final of the same competition, again to be denied victory by Bayern Munich who won 2-1.
Fans told local radio stations that Klopp would become as revered as much as Kop giants of the past such as Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. Some were describing Klopp more than a manager as a spiritual leader.
Along the route the streets were crowded to capacity in scenes not seen since 2014 when Liverpool won the same trophy.
Joining the victorious team bus at the head of a cavalcade was the American owner of Liverpool FC John Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti Henry, along with club chairman Tom Werner.
Wives of the players and family members followed in a second open top bus as the parade slowly made its way. The sheer volume of people meant the tour took longer than expected to reach its destination in downtown Liverpool where the largest number of fans had gathered.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, a fan of rivals Everton FC, described the homecoming as truly amazing with hundreds of thousands welcoming the cup champions.
He said 250 media people were covering the parade, beaming film and pictures of a “truly global city” around the world.
Fans were joined at the world famous riverfront by crowds already there for a river festival and a Bordeaux wine festival.
With people still heading to the parade route, city officials said the crowd was more than 250,000 strong and expected to climb much higher.