Premier League: There is romance in the old game yet

Two events last weekend showed that some humanity still exists in the cynical world of professional football
Premier League: There is romance in the old game yet

Leicester City's Wes Morgan and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel celebrate with the trophy after their FA Cup final triumph at Wembley Stadium, London. 

AS seasons go, most Premier League clubs, or rather most Premier League club owners to be precise, will be happy to see the back of the 2020-2021 season.

Covid-19 restrictions have hollowed out their revenues while the public relations disaster that was the European Super League left Premier League club owners' popularity lying somewhere between a paper cut and a vulture capitalist.

In general, the public opinion of football and the business of football in Europe, and Britain in particular, has hit rock-bottom. Indeed the only thing both fans and the owners probably agree on is that they both would be happy to see the back of 2021.

But just when our love of the game seemed to be lost forever, a couple of events last weekend managed to pull on our heartstrings and once again we fell head over heels in love with the beautiful game. Well a little less disgusted at any rate.

It was appropriate that the last club to fill us full of romance for the game was once again at the centre of our rejuvenated love for it. On Saturday, up popped the Foxes again to make us believe that the football can mean something, that it isn't just a mercenary excuse for a bunch of millionaires with meticulous hair to add even more cash to their wardrobe fund.

No, the Leicester City players pulled off the surprise win against favourites Chelsea to collect the first-ever FA Cup triumph in the club's history, after five unsuccessful finals over a hundred or so odd years. The jubilations and entirely genuine delight of the players winning the cup was not what was the ultimate surprise but rather that any Premier League club, filled with many players that had already collected a Premier League medal, should be so delighted to win a mere FA Cup medal. 

All our biases and stereotypes about greedy football players were thrown out the window when these Leicester City players showed genuine elation and awareness of history and what the cup meant for the fans. It was so refreshing and made all the more enjoyable for having the fans present to share the moment too.

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers and Chairman Khun Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha with the trophy. 
Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers and Chairman Khun Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha with the trophy. 

Even the owner came out of the enterprise looking far better than his contemporaries of late. The players and manager Brendan Rodgers were quick to get owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha on to the field at Wembley to share in the celebrations and of course, it was made all the more meaningful and poignant with the memory of Aiyawatt's father's death in the horrible helicopter tragedy outside the King Power Stadium back in 2018.

After so many years of teams putting out second, third, or even U18 string sides to represent them in this nuisance of a cup competition. It was nice to see that, for at least Leicester City, the romance of the FA Cup was still alive and worth fighting for. Of course, we will see just how much Leicester really love the FA Cup if they are faced with a fixture congestion in the Champions League in early February, should they actually manage to qualify for Europe's top competition.

Header from heaven

Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson, centre, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's late winner against WBA. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Pool via AP
Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson, centre, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's late winner against WBA. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Pool via AP

Such cynicism is for another day. So too for Liverpool. Sure the elation their players demonstrated after scoring the winner against West Brom in the 95th minute might have come from the mercenary relief of a professional footballer keeping his side's Champions League qualification hopes alive or the astonishment of seeing a goalkeeper scoring that same winner. But as we saw in Alisson's emotional post-match interview, the players' joy and delight went beyond the amazement of the event to encapsulate the very human satisfaction of seeing a friend achieve something special after a trying personal time that saw the shot-stopper lose his father in a tragic drowning accident in Brazil and Alisson unable to travel to the funeral because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The deeply spiritual Alisson was sure his father witnessed the goal from heaven but his colleagues and teammates at the club made sure his grief was acknowledged when delight returned to his life with such an unexpected and joyous goal from the Liverpool No 1.

These are harsh and calculating times for many, it was nice to see this last weekend that some humanity and decency still exist in the hard, money-grabbing world of professional football.

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