WASHINGTON — In England, “soccer” is called “football.” But regardless of the terminology, Leicester City F.C.’s ability to capture the Premier League title is a feel-good story of epic proportions.
At the start of the Premier League season, British bookmakers placed odds of 5,000-1 on Leicester City to win it all. They were identical to the odds placed on finding Elvis Presley alive sometime this year.
Even Kim Kardashian had better odds of becoming the next president of the United States.
But the Leicester City Foxes are celebrating their first top division title in the club’s 132-year history after second-place Tottenham Hotspur could only manage a 2-2 draw on Monday against Chelsea. It was only Leicester City’s second season back in the Premier League after spending a decade in the second and third tiers of English football.
The comparison is not exact, but it’s like a professional baseball team that had been playing at Double-A level in the minor leagues having the chance to advance to the Major Leagues, then winning the World Series. It really seemed like that much of a long shot at the start of the Premier League season back in August.
Leicester City has a population of roughly 330,000 and is best known for its local cheese and for being the birthplace of Englebert Humperdinck. In fact, it is more known as a rugby town and for most of the past 10 months the popular thinking was that Leicester City’s Cinderella run would hit midnight.
Instead, a team of retreads and rejects are the best team in arguably the most competitive and certainly the richest soccer league in the world. Only four years ago, Leicester City’s leading scorer Jamie Vardy was a part-time player who also held down a job as a technician making medical splints.
Claudio Ranieri became the head coach after losing his job in charge of Greece’s national team following a loss to the Faroe Islands in the Euro 2016 qualifying. At age 64, Ranieri, like his players, was not in demand.
But with him guiding Leicester City, a team spirit emerged. Ranieri used a pizza night out at a local restaurant as a win incentive and when he wanted to get his players’ attention, he would say, “dilly ding, dilly dong” to make the sound of a bell.
Now, the world is waking up to Leicester City.