I don’t normally watch soccer. I have never followed the English Premier League. But for the last few weeks, I keep checking on how one particular team is doing. I am of course talking about Leicester City. Last season, Leicester City was fighting to stay in the English Premier League. They managed to do so.
But during the summer break, the relationship between their then-manager Nigel Pearson and the club’s owners collapsed. Pearson was sacked abruptly. Claudio Ranieri was chosen to manage the team. He was given on simple task. The chairman of the club said to him: “Claudio, this is a very important year for the club. It is very important for us to stay in the Premier League. We have to stay safe.”
Forty points. That was what they need to stay in the Premier League. That was their goal.
At the start of this season, most pundits thought that Leicester City would still be fighting for survival. Then the miracle happened. Now, with just five games left in this season, Leicester City sits at the top of the table, seven points clear of the second team, Tottenham Hotspurs. This is the fairytale story of the Leicester City Foxes:
What led to their incredible run?
Maybe it’s a manager who believe in them. Ranieri said: “When I arrived my first day of training and I saw the quality of these players, I knew how good they could be.”
Maybe it’s the team all working together, passing and crossing unselfishly. Ranieri said to this team: “I want you to play for your teammates. We are a little team, so we have to fight with all our heart, with all our soul. I don’t care the name of the opponent. All I want is for you to fight. If they are better than us, Okay, congratulations. But they have to show us they are better.”
Even the supporters were part of the team. Ranieri said: “Do the fans sing only when we have the ball? Oh, no, no, no. When we are under pressure, the fans understand our pain and they sing their hearts out. They understand the complexity of the game, and when the players are suffering. They are very, very close to us.”
Whatever it is, Leicester City’s story is nothing short of inspirational. They are one of the cheapest teams in the Premier League. Their players are considered too slow, too small, not good enough for other clubs. Ranieri said this about his players: “Just a few years ago, many of my players were in the lower leagues. Vardy was working in a factory. Kanté was in the third tier of the French league. Mahrez was in the French fourth division.”
This season, Jamie Vardy scored in 11 games consecutively. That’s a new record for the Premier League. The previous record of scoring in 10 games consecutively was set in 2002 by Manchester United Ruud van Nistelrooy. Riyad Mahrez is a serious frontrunner for Player of the Year.
Now the club that was struggling to stay in the Premier League last season is fighting for the title. It’s a fairytale. It’s gotten all the Leicester City fans dreaming. Leicester City just needs to win three of the last five games to win the title. But Ranieri doesn’t dream. He simply keeps working hard:
“No matter what happens to end this season, I think our story is important for all football fans around the world. It gives hope to all the young players out there who have been told they are not good enough.
They can say to themselves, “How do I arrive at the top level? If Vardy can do this, if Kanté can do this, maybe I can too.”
What do you need to arrive?
A big name? No.
A big contract? No.
You just need to keep an open mind, an open heart, a full battery, and run free.
Who knows, maybe at the end of the season, we will have two pizza parties.”
Thanks, Foxes, for this inspirational fairytale.
[Featured image: Leicester City fans. Photo by Luarence Griffiths/Getty Images