If Hollywood loves an underdog tale, then it might get swept off its feet by the incredible story of Leicester City.
On Monday, the scrappy English soccer team (or football, as they call the national sport in England) managed to triumph over perennial titans like Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea to win their first ever Premier League title.
For those of you who don’t watch soccer and need a reference, imagine a AAA minor league team joining the MLB and winning the World Series. Now imagine them doing that with a team payroll that’s a fraction of the Dodgers or Yankees.
That is the improbable feat that Leicester (which is pronounced Lester) pulled off today, winning a championship in a league that doesn’t offer top draft picks to the worst teams or puts any salary caps to keep the richest teams from offering the most lucrative contracts possible. With their victory, Leicester sent a clear message: with the right coaching, management, and locker room vibe, any team in England can achieve greatness. Championship gold is no longer reserved for the select few.
– Sky News (@SkyNews) May 2, 2016
At the beginning of the season nine months ago, the odds being offered on Leicester winning the title were 5,000-1. While the odds of them being relegated from the Premier League and bumped down to the lower league were 50-1.
As the soccer world celebrates this win, we look back this remarkable season through the words of the sportswriters who followed them from the start.
March 7: Deadspin’s Billy Haisley, praying for Leicester to prevail:
“Either the Lord doesn’t exist and these crushing comeuppances have been simply the natural order of the sport eventually catching up with these outliers, or He has for some reason seen fit to send us an increasingly depressing array of soccer Jobs. What lesson He could be trying to impart, I couldn’t say. All I do know is that in these dark times, we could use a bit of hope, and a Leicester title would be a fine rainbow to remind us once and for all that He is in fact watching over us.”
April 15: The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor, calling Leicester’s run “madness”:
“None of it really makes sense. Baffling, beautiful and stamped with its own copyright. Where else, just for starters, has a story of this nature begun with a manager, infamous for calling a journalist an ostrich, being sacked after an orgy involving several players, one being his son, on a club tour to Bangkok? What kind of logic went into deciding the best person to replace that manager was someone who had lost his last job, in charge of Greece, after losing to the Faroe Islands? And good luck to any prospective title-winners trying to copy the formula.”
May 2: The Guardian’s Barney Ronay on the ramifications of Leicester’s win:
“Leicester are like some low-cost, bare-bones start-up, cleaning up in the space between the bloated corporate giants, a footballing Napster quietly shutting down the record labels. Who knows, perhaps we might even see an invisible barrier being broken here, just as when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile at Iffley Road, a mark previously considered beyond the scope of the human physique. Suddenly runners around the world began to find they could do the same.”
And finally, head coach Claudio Ranieri reflecting on the season for The Players’ Tribune:
“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. Now, we are fighting for a title. The Leicester fans I meet in the street tell me they are dreaming. But I say to them, “Okay, you dream for us. We do not dream. We simply work hard.”