Leicester City won 1-0 vs Chelsea to clinch the 2020-21 FA Cup in a historic encounter as fans were allowed back into Wembley in a limited capacity.
This is Leicester's first-ever FA Cup trophy. Youri Tieleman's javelin strike on the 63rd minute was the difference between these two teams on the scorecard. But in the gestalt of things, the journey of these two teams to this point couldn't be more different.
One for the books
You know of those old hardcover books? You know, the ones you used to marvel at, while they looked down on you from grandad's high, Burma teak shelf?
I remember those leather bound hardcovers: the golden inscribed title sanded by familiarity of hands, but spine strong and erect, with the perfect posture, side punctuated by yellowed decked-edged pages... Vivid enough?
That's what Leicester City's 2020-21 Campaign has the essence of. A hark back to a time football had if not the facilities, but had the perfect grace. The feel-good manner of Leicester's FA Cup win and their league run in general seems so very out of place, almost anachronous.
It feels like the news clipping of this match report should belong in one of our grandad's almanacs " underdogs taking a bite out of the favourites, who are incidentally Champions League finalists.
There were scarfs being held skywards with the words "Mr. Chairman" written on it, among the celebrating Leicester fans.
Hold on. Football fans giving thanks to the owners of a football club? How very far-removed and unusual in a world where football supporters across Europe were left systematically alienated by the outrageous, attempted money-grab coup of European Super League.
Chelsea, Leicester City's opponent on the night was one of the clubs who opted in for the hyper-capitalistic move of cornering the market, where the demand and fancies of a few elite football clubs would have held the reins of the purse strings of the streaming royalties and tv deals. Making rich clubs richer and modest clubs poorer. It was not until Chelsea fans blocked their own team bus, was their voices finally heard and the club revved in reverse.
A move like this, that would leave fans and players unaccounted for wouldn't have ever happened at Leicester City football club.
The King Power family understands what it means to be a true, thoughtful custodian of a football club, which by its very definition is socially responsible.
As chairman Top Srivaddhanaprabha, one of Asia's top five richest billionaires, ran on the fault during the trophy presentation with a childlike glee, he was embraced by the whole Leicester team and management, his name sung loudly from the Leicester section of the stands. You'd think he was a local pub-cum-club owner of yore who has his feet firmly rooted in the collective community interest of the city. It seemed so very natural, the waves of joy emanating from the pedestal as the players hopped with him singing 'Campiones, Campiones.'
It was at this point that Kasper Schmeichel, the team captain went straight to Top, holding the FA Cup. The owner fully aware of the sanctity of this gesture clasped his hands together in gratitude and nodded in acknowledgement. He then duly lifted the FA Cup above his head, as the entire club joined in the singsong.
To the far left of the screen was a message from Top's father on the big screen, a reiteration of the message he gave Leicester fans when his ownership group arrived on English shores, "Our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."
Brendan Rodgers - the little engine that could
A lot of credit also has to go to Brendan Rodgers for forming that bridge of communication between the Thai foreign national owners and the rest of the club.
Thanks to Rodgers' clearly obvious strengths as a natural communicator the ownership is tastefully aware that their duties doesn't have to be informed by a holier-than-thou brand of cold detachment from a great colder distance. Like how the perpetually brooding billionaire oligarch Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich operates.
Leicester's leadership under Rodgers instead relied heavily on specific expertise backed confidently by the owners, in terms of scouting, rehabilitation, analysis and conditioning.
The 19-year-old academy product Luke Thomas was the co-orchester beside former Anderlecht starlet Youri Tielemans in this game. The youngster played the ball to the Belgian international for the picture perfect FA Cup final long range goal. A rarity these days. But as is a club whose owners listen intently to the management when it comes to matters of recruitment and replenishment.
The young Wesley Fofana, who shut out the top bill earner Timo Werner, is also a shining example of what transpires when ego among decision makers is put on the side, and system is at the forefront.
Nampalys Mandy, Daniel Amartey, Wilfred Ndidi, Nampalys Mendy among others recruited over the last few seasons prove that team building, like success is an aggregation of marginal gains.
It's little surprise that in the Premier League Brendan Rodgers' Leicester again find themselves themselves third in the table looking hungrily secure a Champions League spot ahead of teams with much more resources and calibre like Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, etc. While the big clubs suffer from the rot of complacency and mismanagement, Rodgers led Leicester City are collectively engaged in making good decisions.
Tactically, few teams press harder than Leicester on the counter. Brendan Rodgers' underdog narrative has suited the players he recruited to the t. All of them feel like they are outliers with something to prove. This has resulted in a cohesive rallying cry down and up the club.
Rodgers as a manager has come a long way. His attack-heavy philosophy has been tempered down to find more balance when his team loses possession. His over-reliance on youth has been revised with the addition of the likes of Johnny Evans and other senior players. The Rodgers at Liverpool came in as someone who was compromised by his own need to be taken seriously. This produced sound bytes that would once inspirational, but when he faltered, it didn't take long for it to be turned into memes. The Brendan Rodgers of Leicester city is more self assured and his clarity shines through his players tactical execution.
Leicester's off-field and on-field strength lies in being connected top-down and bottom-up with the everyday narrative of the club, investing in erecting a working system, and not merely splurging for the goal. That yields better sustainable long-term results, better commitment to the cause, especially when the cause, the hand that pulls the levers and ropes behind the curtain has ever-shining faces attached to it. That face is Top's and Brendan Rodgers.