In a word: hope.
We’re not talking about “I’ll win the lottery jackpot and here’s how” kind of hope. This is the “setting goals and having the courage and persistence to achieve them” hope.
That’s what Leicester City represents to the soccer world.
Leicester City clinched the 2015-16 Premier League title Monday, making a mockery of the 5000-1 odds bookmakers set in preseason and this writer’s prediction that the Foxes would suffer relegation to the Championship (England’s second division).
The Foxes’ success is a triumph of the collective, not the individual. They marched from the bottom to the top of the Premier League in just over a calendar year through the sheer force of their will power and perhaps some help from a long-dead but recently re-buried king of England. The failings of other so-called title challengers helped, but there’s no doubting Leicester City’s worthiness of its newly claimed crown.
Leicester City bucked conventional wisdom about soccer in England and beyond. Former “truths” said the best teams collect the best players — usually by buying them from other teams — and pay them the highest salaries. The rich grow richer and the fat fatter under this system, which reigns in all but a couple remote corners of the soccer world. The Premier League started in 1992, and only five other teams have won championships in the England’s modern-day top flight.
Leicester City, a team that hadn’t won a first-division title since its founding 132 years ago, not only crashed this elite party. They knocked over the DJ’s turn-tables, flipped over the drinks table and switched on the lights. Party over.
The Premier League is world soccer’s domestic league of reference, and Leicester City has given fresh hope to players, coaches, fans, clubs and national teams — all 3.5 billion-plus of them — that they can live out their dreams.
The statement “Leicester City doesn’t have any star players” was considered to be true when the season began last August. Leicester City paid less for the core of its team in recent years than Manchester City paid for either Raheem Sterling or Kevin de Bruyne last summer.
But the Foxes had something other teams didn’t: something to prove. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports last month Leicester City’s character is built on the “rejection” each of its players have faced during their career.
“There is a theory that says to go to the absolute utmost of your talent you need to suffer in life,” Wenger said. ” When you look at the Leicester team, not one career of all these players was obvious, like starting on the red carpet at 18 years of age in the Champions League.”
Through persistence, sacrifice and chemistry each Fox has become a household name in his own right. Every player around the world should take heed.
The lesson also applies to clubs and national teams. Led by first-year manager Claudio Ranieri, Leicester City administered its way to the top. Ranieri, 64, forged a bond with players, adapting management methods he honed over three decades of coaching in five countries to fit the group he inherited from predecessor Nigel Pearson. Ranieri didn’t try to reinvent Leicester City’s style of play. He helped perfect it.
Meanwhile, Leicester City trusted existing structures of player development and recruitment to sign and improve players, who would become champions. The club didn’t play the transfer market, looking for value signings it could sell for a profit in the future. It built a team, fit in new players and will continue to reap the financial rewards for doing so.
Leicester City has given its fans the ride of a lifetime and new ones are flocking to the club so quickly it can’t produce enough replica jerseys to satisfy demand.
Leicester City’s title is English soccer’s version of the American Dream — Not the one about having a better life than one’s parents or buying a house with a lawn. We’re talking about the dream that says an individual can be what ever you want to be in this world, provided you’re willing to work for it. Leicester City has taken away the old excuses for failure.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@premierleague