CARDIFF, Wales (AP) The Welsh capital of Cardiff came to a standstill on Friday as Wales’ national team returned home to a rapturous welcome by an estimated 200,000 people after its historic run to the European Championship semifinals in France.
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After hundreds of supporters greeted the team at Cardiff Airport – renamed Cardiff Bale Airport for the day in honor of Wales star Gareth Bale – an open-top bus carrying Chris Coleman’s squad weaved its way through the streets of Cardiff for an hour.
Players and supporters then re-enacted the viking “Huh” chant made famous at Euro 2016 by Iceland, the other feel-good story of the tournament.
“All those years of going abroad and hearing people say, `Wales, where’s that? Is it part of England?” Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said. “Well, that’s gone out of the window. In five weeks, they’ve really shown where Wales is and that we are a country in ourselves.”
Competing in only its second major tournament, and first since the 1958 World Cup, Wales topped its group ahead of England and beat highly fancied Belgium en route to the last four. Portugal beat Wales 2-0 on Wednesday.
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The parade ended at Cardiff City Stadium, where Welsh band Manic Street Preachers performed on stage before players and staff were presented to the crowd. One player was missing, however, as midfielder Joe Ledley had earlier boarded a private plane in France to marry his fiancee Ruby May in Ibiza this weekend.
Wales’ bus was emblazoned on the side with the words `Diolch (Thank you). Together We Are Stronger’.
“This is what it’s all about, this is why the players work so hard to represent their country,” Coleman said. “They knew there was a nation waiting for them.”