LEICESTER, UK: Leicester City captain Wes Morgan hoisted the Premier League trophy aloft to a burst of pyrotechnics on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as one of sport’s most captivating stories reached its giddy climax.
Following a 3-1 win over Everton in their final home game, the 5,000-1 outsiders, whose exploits have captivated fans around the world, got their hands on the prized trophy at an exultant King Power Stadium.
After the players had been called up one by one to a hastily constructed on-pitch plinth — the biggest cheers reserved for star players Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante — Morgan was handed the trophy by competition winner Steve Worthy, a lifelong Leicester fan.
“It is fantastic,” said Leicester’s inspirational 64-year-old manager Claudio Ranieri, who was at Morgan’s side as the Jamaica international center-back raised the trophy above his head.
“The people have been unbelievable. Thank you to them. They push behind us all season.
“I was very, very, concentrated on being calm and of course I am very, very happy. I think it was an amazing moment for me. I am not the youngest!
“To lift the trophy is something special. You are champion of the Premier League. That is something special for me, of course, because I won some cups in Spain and Italy, but to be champion here is fantastic.”
Morgan said: “It was an unbelievable feeling to finally get my hands on the trophy. I had to hold back the tears. I held them back and lifted it up. It was the best feeling in the world.”
The 25kg trophy was decorated with ribbons of blue, for Leicester, and yellow, representing the royal house of Thailand, home country of club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Vichai and his fellow club directors joined the players on a lap of honor as Leicester’s fans, who saw their team narrowly avoid relegation last season, launched into a chorus of “Leicester till I die!”
It was followed by “Barcelona, we’re coming for you!” in a nod to next season’s hotly anticipated Champions League campaign.
Vardy scored a brace and missed a penalty in the victory over Everton, which took Ranieri’s men 10 points clear of second-place Tottenham Hotspur ahead of the London club’s game with Southampton on Sunday.
Banned for Leicester’s two previous games, Vardy struck in each half, with Welsh midfielder Andy King also on target.