Zeroes to heroes: The undying, endearing legend of the underdog

A team that was never supposed to win just took home one of football's biggest trophies. Here's to Leicester City.

History is not always created by eleven men in shorts. But on Monday night, on the 2nd of May, 11 players from Leicester City Football Club hit the big time when it won the 2015-16 English Premier League title. Beer filled mugs, fans spent the following hours cheering and crying and yes, yes, this being Britain and football, punches were thrown.

Many were simply caught unawares — bookies and sports desks, for example. The odds of Leicester winning were 5,000 to 1 and across the great pond nothing illustrated the magnitude of Leicester City’s triumph better than the pain some prominent Yankee papers took to get the pronunciation of the club right.

But neither the newspapers nor their consumers in America were to be blamed for pedagogic pieces of journalism because the EPL title race has always been the preserve of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in the Premier League era. Blackburn Rovers bucked the trend in 1994-95, but they owed their success more to the wallet of a wealthy businessman than to giant-killing acts. And that brings us to perhaps the best word sport has lent us, ‘Underdog’.

In that singular term lies dedication, honesty, a respect for methods and goal-oriented rigour. If you have ever been applauded after years of sustained rebuke, you’ll know why Leicester City brings out both cheers and tears.

They were among the smallest in the running. Manchester United — with their millions and minions — spent more money in the last two seasons purchasing players than what poor ‘Les-tah’ had spent in their 132-year history. What they earn, is pittance compared to other clubs and the last time they were higher than sewage in the League, was when they found themselves as the runners-up in 1929.

Back to 2016, the club’s goal at the start of the season was avoiding relegation. But Leicester manager Ranieri had forged a successful team, mainly with players who had been on the fringes of the game. The amiable Italian himself is far too familiar with loss and rejection as he had worked in 27 football jobs without winning a top-fight title before assuming charge at Leicester. Jamie Vardy, whose 22 goals were pivotal to the club’s triumph, was playing in the fifth tier of English football four years ago. And tired, ol’ Ranieri used modest means to get his men motivated – he would buy his boys pizza for not conceding a goal in every match. He was at home with his 96-year-old mother on the day his team were crowned the unlikeliest English champions and that says something about the man.

Because there’s something so splendidly everyday about Leicester City’s win. It’s the stuff that brews movies. Remember the Springboks? Remember the Titans? It has been 21 years since any team other than Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United won the top-flight title. And along came a bunch high on pizza and determination.

It’s no wonder a film is now being made on Vardy and it will be no surprise that it will do well in a football-loving town, that prior to this year, had spent many punches and fine yale defending their team.

The source of Leicester City’s strength perhaps came from their coach. Or perhaps, they were inspired by goalkeep Kasper Schmeichel and captain Wes Morgan who played all 3,240 minutes in the 36 games it took the team to win the League. Or perhaps, it’s in their motto — ‘the Foxes never quit’.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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