Don Claudio, alcohol and silverware: Leicester fans drown in celebrations of Premier League win

“Jamie Vardy’s having a party, bring your vodka and your Charlie.” Arguably, never before had this chant rang so true in Leicester. Vardy scored twice as Leicester City overwhelmed Everton at their coronation party; the whole city responded by bringing their alcohol and Charlies (pals).

Inebriated and soaked in the spirit of success, Leicester fans coloured the city in their team’s hues. Blue and white everywhere. Peeking out as a ribbon from a woman’s bag, adorning the hat on a young fan’s head or plastered on the flag that fluttered in air as its holder swept away in the car.

Even those who did not belong to Leicester had adopted the team as their own. In Leicester’s moment of unqualified happiness, everyone wanted a share.

A Leicester City supporter wearing a fox mask, arrives at the stadium ahead of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Everton. AFP

A Leicester City supporter wearing a fox mask, arrives at the stadium ahead of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Everton. AFP

A man drove from Sicily to pay his regards to Claudio Ranieri, the manager; another rode a car from Somerset in his Jeffrey Schlupp jersey. It was a wonderful coincidence that Leicester were playing Everton. The visiting side’s home colours? Blue and white. They blended in the atmosphere where they were expected to be obliging guests. How did an Everton fan feel about visiting a trophy celebration of another club? “Same old, same old,” he remarked, with a hint of resignation. “Just want our manager (Roberto Martinez) out.” During the game, some Everton fans held banners that demanded Martinez’s ouster. It was a bad day to make the statement.

On the other side, there was a manager probably loved more than the players who play under him. Don Claudio, they call him in Leicester. Probably with good reason. The scenes before the match reminded one of the day Don Vito Corleone’s daughter got married in The Godfather. Ranieri seems to enjoy the respect and admiration that was showered on that much revered fictional Don. Men bowed at the sight of Ranieri, blew kisses in the air. Chants, gospels and rap songs were sung in his honour. If you believe Leicester’s fans, he can do no wrong. A man in a queue outside a pub became the subject of discussion for most around him as his face strikingly resembled that of Ranieri. Someone even suggested that he be allowed to enter first. It’s borderline madness but till the celebrations go on, the city has decided to weaken its ties with sanity.

Ranieri also had a proud legion of Italians travelling to Leicester to be a part of his special day. The Italian tricolor looked out of place among the blue and white but Leicester’s locals were more than happy to accommodate their well-wishers from across the sea. It was sunny and cheerful; not that anyone’s mood needed brightening up.

But suddenly, as it is likely to happen in Britain, the sky turned grey. There was rain in the air. The heavens roared with thunder. Determined to continue their party as they waited for the match, the multitudes roared back. Almost goading the weather to show what it got.

They probably would have wished otherwise. For it suddenly started to rain heavily. The fans who were dancing with joy a few minutes ago rushed to take cover. Some found no shelter and got drenched. Some just chose to embrace it. If the weather was going to rain on Leicester’s party, they were going to respond by continuing their celebrations.

King Claudio. AFP

King Claudio. AFP

As the proceedings began inside the King Power Stadium, the weather ceased to be an irritant. More blue and white, more Leicester chants and more bows to Ranieri. The trophy appeared and people just wanted it to be given to the players. Who cared for the match, anyway? For them, it was a mere formality.

So it turned out. Leicester were a goal up within five minutes and it was a procession thereafter. In the second half, fans kept a countdown running to ascertain how long it would be before their side would finally lift the coveted trophy. Time seemed to lose its legs. An impatient father told his son to leave at full time. The son dug his heels in. Determined to see his side being crowned champion, there was no way he would budge. “I’m going to be here till we lift the trophy,” he made it clear. “We?” asked the bemused father. The son had only a terse response thereafter clarifying he meant the team. His resolve to see it through would have earned the admiration of Leicester’s players. They know a thing or two about resoluteness.

With the Champions League approaching next season, shouts of “Barcelona, watch out!” rang in the air. Heady and headless optimism had come together in a curious mix. It was given a break by the necessary distraction of the trophy ceremony. The procedure went like it had gone all these years but Leicester had not known the feeling before. Once the festivities inside the stadium came to a rest, the fans made their way to a city centre. Most of them draped themselves in Leicester jerseys, flags and scarves. Some chose the freedom of being shirtless. Stood on the shoulders of their friend, they exhorted their vocal chords to make one final push. Covered with hysteria, they were able to rouse themselves again.

A fan chose to climb an unusually high lamppost and made it to the top with surprising ease. As the crowd below roared its approval, he covered it with his beloved team’s flag. It was a remarkably courageous effort but the flag slipped down within a couple of minutes after it was hoisted. Perhaps, that’s a sign of things to come for Leicester. Nobody could care less about the future, though. As they chanted all evening –“We know who we are. Champions of England. We know who we are.”

Updated Date: May 09, 2016 09:15 AM

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