You may somewhere have seen a few headlines about English soccer today in your local press. A little-known team from the East Midlands has just won the country's top football league (I've reverting to the use of the word football from now on, because when in Rome....). This means they've totally outperformed the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. Because you've heard of all those guys, right? The reason you might not have heard of Leicester City is because they only moved up into the Premier League last season after lingering in the lower divisions since 2004/05, and even then only just escaped relegation back down again.
So this is a true fairy tale sports story, and I know how you love those in Chicago. Especially at a time when you might have your own potentially brewing. So I thought I'd throw in some fun facts to dazzle your friends, should the subject come up at the pub (we're back at the 'when in Rome' thing again).
1. First off, how to pronounce the team. The name of the club rhymes with Lester. Or if you want to be really clever, you could say 'You know the name rhymes with 'let's stir' (Pause). As in 'let's stir up the English Premier League' (Cue much guffawing and slapping of backs).
2. Some people are really happy that Leicester won. I mean really, really, really happy. Leicester started the season with odds of up to 5,000/1 to win the league. We're talking the same odds as finding Elvis Presley alive this year apparently. The UK press is reporting the total payout could be a record £25 million (over $36 million), with the luckiest punter collecting £100,000 (around $145,000).
3. Gary Lineker (in theory) will present MOTD in his underwear. If you have any interest in British football, you will no doubt have watched Match of the Day (MOTD), THE resume of all the day's footballing action, and an integral part of the BBC's sport coverage since 1964.
Current presenter Gary Lineker is a former England striker, and began his football career at Leicester City where he scored 95 goals in 195 appearances. In mid-December Lineker promised to present MOTD in his pants (another 'when in Rome' moment - we are talking British underwear here), should the unthinkable happen. Well, Lineker is apparently in discussion with BBC bosses about the unthinkable happening, with only 2 chances remaining - either this coming Saturday or Sunday, May 15.
4. Royal support may have played a key role. From the grave. There's a great story about whether the discovery of Richard III (the Hunchback King)'s remains may have been the deciding factor in the team's meteoric rise. The remains were found under a parking lot in August 2012, were authenticated as being those of the king killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and then were reinterred with much ceremony and decorum at Leicester Cathedral in March last year. At that point, Leicester were fighting relegation back down into the second-tier Championship League, but following the royal reburial, the team went on to win 7 out of the remaining 9 matches, managing to finish in 14th place.
5. Regardless of whether you believe the King Richard theory, there is another King that has had an undoubted impact - King Power, the Thai travel retail group belonging to the club's owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. That's the King you see on the players' shirts and on the club's stadium. While Srivaddhanaprabha's financial 'Power' comes predominantly from duty-free shops, he also obviously believes in spiritual power, as most home games, Buddhist monks have been flown from Thailand to bless the team prior to the match. The monks then spend the match in deep meditation, a state not easy to attain in a UK Premier League fixture.
6. The Leicester City manager, Claudio Ranieri, is the nicest man. He really, really is. Now aged 64, this is his 14th club, the list including Juventus, Inter Milan and Chelsea. And do you know how he spent yesterday prior to the crucial match that put Leicester on top of the UK footballing world? He took his 96-year old mother out to lunch in Italy.
7. Who would play star striker Jamie Vardy in a Hollywood movie? Apparently, there have actually been meetings on a possible film about the former medical-splint technician, who only turned professional 4 years ago. Favourite to play Vardy is none other than One Direction's Louis Tomlinson. And Claudio Ranieri wouldn't mind being portrayed by Robert De Niro.
8. Leicester City's 2015/16 wage bill is estimated by totalSPORTEK at £48.2 million, compared to that of Chelsea at £215.6 million, £203 million Manchester United and £192 million Arsenal. So you could have 4 'Leicester City's for the same cost of each one of these teams.
9. Dilly ding, dilly dong. If you watch a Leicester City match, you're almost certainly going to hear the fans sing 'Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong'. No, it's not a quaint East Midlands folk ditty. It's what Claudio Ranieri says to his players when they're not concentrating. I'll let him explain in his own words. Plus you'll see how really nice he is.
10. Leicester City have every right to enjoy their victory. They truly deserve it. But they should enjoy it while they can. Because Manchester United are winning next year. I know so.
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