Edison Chikamhi-Senior Sports Reporter
UPCOMING midfielder Tawanda Maswanhise may not have been part of the final Leicester City side that rewrote the books of history by winning the club’s first English FA Cup on Saturday night, but the Cinderella story continued to unfold for the highly-rated teenager, who became the second player of Zimbabwean descent to get the winners’ medal in this famous competition.
The 18-year-old was part of the 23-man squad that was chosen for the tie by Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers but could not make the final match-day 20.
Leicester City edged Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley to win their first-ever FA Cup final after 137 years of waiting. A stunning first-half goal by Youri Tielemans made a big difference in this fairy-tale run that ignited wild celebrations into the night.
Maswanhise, who had tongues wagging after he made the match-day squad earlier in the week for the big game against Manchester United at Old Trafford straight from the Under-18 development side, was expected to cap off a memorable week by getting involved in England’s most famous knockout cup competition.
However, the young midfielder, who is currently in the development side, still had great memories after making the travelling side. He has made significant strides and was part of the Foxes senior team during the preparations for the Emirates FA Cup final on Saturday.
But the most memorable will be the medal that he is expected to receive from the club for his role during the run-up to the final. Medals were handed only to those who were on the pitch on Saturday night because of the Covid-19 regulations. The other players, including Maswanhise, and staff will get theirs at the club.
Each club in the final receives 40 winners’ or runners-up medals to be distributed among players, staff and officials.
This would make him the second player from Zimbabwe to get the medal after legendary goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, who won three FA Cup medals with Liverpool between 1986 and 1992.
Although he did not play in Saturday night’s final at Wembley, the medal would mean much for Maswanhise as much as it was historic for the Foxes.
Rodgers has maintained that the recent involvement of the young player with the senior team was meant for his development.
Maswanhise has impressed Rodgers with his performances for City’s Under-18s, for whom he has been the top assist maker this season, primarily playing on the wing. He has spent the majority of the campaign with the Under-18s, scoring once and assisting six in 20 Under-18 Premier League appearances, while he also set up both goals in an FA Youth Cup win over Exeter in March.
He has also featured for the Foxes Under-13 and, for the past couple of weeks, he has been training with the first team.
Another academy graduate, Luke Thomas, who scored a brilliant goal in the 2-1 win over Manchester United last week, was given a run in the FA Cup final on Saturday night.
Maswanhise is the son of an ex-Zimbabwean sprinter, Jeffrey Maswanhise, who represented the country in the 400m at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games.
“He’s a young player I like,” Rodgers recently said of the 18-year-old. “I’ve seen him playing for the Under-18s. He’s quick, he’s direct. He’s got a lot of strengths and he’s got a lot of potential, but a lot of work to do.
“Bringing in young players, like we’ve done with Luke before, it gives them the experience.
“To feel the preparation, to sit on the bench, to see the quality of the players, it gives him a flavour of the level and preparation he needs to be here. That was the idea.”
Maswanhise was part of the celebrations after Leicester City’s Emirates FA Cup victory over Chelsea on Saturday night. He was pictured with the trophy and with some first-team players posing with their medals.
It was a milestone achievement for the current class of Leicester City players who broke the jinx with a spirited fight on the night.
Leicester City had featured in four finals previously but without success. They were finalists in 1949, 1961, 1963 and 1969 and it took them 52 years to get into another final.
In this year’s competition, The Foxes defeated Stoke City, Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion, Manchester United and Southampton before overcoming Chelsea in the final at Wembley on Saturday night.
It’s a triumph which means the club has now lifted all of English football’s most prestigious honours, adding to a single Premier League title and three League Cup victories.
Victory for Leicester means they are guaranteed European football next season. They have gained a Europa League slot by winning the FA Cup. They are already strong candidates for a Champions League spot as they have almost sealed a top-four finish.
Rodgers saluted his fantastic Foxes after their historic FA Cup victory on Saturday night.
“I’m very proud, it’s a historic day for the club. Winning the FA Cup for the first time is clearly a special day. The players were so courageous in the game.
“I’m so pleased for Khun Top (chairman) and the family. It was a dream of theirs to win the FA Cup and we have been able to deliver that.
“We were playing against the Champions League finalists, we knew at times we’d have to suffer but we were worthy of the win.
“Every final you ever enter you want to win it. I have an overriding feeling of satisfaction but I’m more pleased for everyone else, the feeling it gives the supporters.
“It’s a trophy the club really wanted to win. It was a great victory for us. For a club like Leicester to be in the final with a great club like Chelsea, people may have been hoping from a neutral point of view we could go on and upset the odds,” said Rodgers.
Around 21 000 fans were allowed in Wembley, with 6 250 official Leicester supporters seeing their side live for the first time in over a year amid the coronavirus pandemic.