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They are a soccer team in England. Their nickname is the Foxes. FC stands for Football Club (the kind of football you play with your feet). The correct way to pronounce Leicester is “Lester.”
Just needed to get that out of the way so the voice in your head doesn’t say “Leichester” throughout this article. Those vowel-happy Brits have gotta calm down. Trust me, I know.
Leicester just completed a journey worthy of Disney movie.
Last weekend, upon Chelsea and Tottenham drawing 2-2, Leicester City FC clinched the English Premier League title. This is the biggest sports moment of the year and will remain to be until December 31st. It may be the biggest team accomplishment in the history of sports. I would be willing to put forth that argument.
For those that don’t know soccer (because you’re “American” and “tough” and “don’t like nice haircuts”), let me fill you in. Each country in Europe has a premier, top-flight soccer league. Each league plays around 38 games in one year. Each league has subordinate leagues (first league, second league, third league, etc.). Domestic tournaments aside, each league’s season ends after that 38th game, and then depending on how the team finishes, they might be granted a spot in a lucrative European tournament like Champions League or Europa League for the next season. Champions League is a year-long competition where the best clubs from each country play each other. On the other less-victorious hand, if a team finishes in the bottom three of their league, they get relegated to the league below.
There’s also a fuckton of money earned and spent in the sport of soccer. The top four teams in Europe (in terms of money each make more than $600 million a year. (Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Real Madrid). In addition, the net worth of all of those teams surpasses $2 billion. These are usually the teams winning their respective leagues and the crown jewel trophy alluded to earlier: the UEFA Champions League.
Enter Leicester City FC.
Two years ago, Leicester was in the second tier league of English football. Last year they finished in 14th place after barely escaping relegation. This year they won the English Premier League.
During the 2014/2015 season, Leicester made $500 million less than the top clubs in Europe. So what we’ve got now is a good ol’ underdog story. DISNEY HOLLA ATCHA BOI THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN. EMILIO ESTEVEZ DOESN’T COACH ANYMORE YOU NEED A NEW STORY.
The Mighty Foxes. Going straight to DVD at a Best Buy near you this Christmas season.
Let me break down the cast for you:
Claudio Ranieri: The new coach in town
As the replacement for player-favorite Nigel Pearson, he was met with resistance. He eventually won the players trust after many unpredicted victories. The old, cheerful Italian strived to give fans the best experience possible. Here’s a video of him getting emotional to a video of Leicester fans thanking him for the season. The protagonist would be lambasted by locals at the beginning like, “Grrr you don’t belong here,” but then hugs the fans in the street at the end of the movie.
Steve Walsh: The trusted scout
One of Ranieri’s first confidants, Walsh had an eye for diamonds in the rough. His recommendations proved vital for the Foxes, especially when they led to signing N’Golo Kante from low-level French club Caen, who is now on the shortlist for PFA Player of the Year. He’d be the guy in the movie that meets Ranieri in dimly lit offices to give him pep talks when he was down in the dumps.
Jamie Vardy: The beloved striker
The rambunctious 29-year-old experienced quite the awakening this season, scoring 22 goals and registering 6 assists. Just four years ago he was on a League One team (the lowest tier of professional English football). Now he’s a top five striker in one of the most respected soccer leagues in the world. He would be the player in the movie with an attitude in whom Ranieri saw potential. Maybe Vardy confronts him in the locker room early in the season combatting Ranieri’s every move, very much like a disgruntled child of a divorce, “You’re not my real dad!”
Danny Drinkwater: The comeback kid
Last season, Drinkwater could not even make Leicester’s first team roster. Today, there is a chance he starts on the wing for the English National Team during Euro 2016 this summer. He’ll probably cry in Ranieri’s arms at the end of the season.
N’Golo Kante: The surprise
Scouts overlooked him for years, but now he’s a staple at King Power Stadium in Leicester. One article described him as such: “He drives a Mini and lives a simple life.” He’d be the character that’s constantly smiling, even when Jamie Vardy is having a bitch fit.
Wes Morgan: The captain
He’s over 30, which is scary in the life of most professional footballers, but with partner Robert Huth (below), he formed one of the best defensive pairings in the league. He’s also just kind of an animal. Upon winning the championship he bought 55 shots for fans at the celebration. Talk about morale booster. In the movie he’d be the forever-hyped guy, the man that says stuff like, “We’re living the dream baby,” and “We belong here.”
Robert Huth: The Frankenstein
Apparently this guy just has the driest sense of humor of all time, which in turn would create some comedic value for the movie. Here I’m just assuming that Frankenstein isn’t funny at all.
Riyad Mahrez: The best player on Leicester
In addition to Vardy and Kante, Mahrez is also up for PFA Player of the Year. He’s so god damn crafty it’s ridiculous. He’d be the smooth, clean cut guy in the movie that makes bad jokes all the time but people laugh anyway because he’s the most talented guy on the team.
Kasper Schmeichel: The goalie and legend’s son
His dad Peter Schmeichel was goaltender for Manchester United during their decade of dominance, so he’s got a lot to live up to. I could see Kasper playing a quiet role in the movie, but Peter would serve a Tiger Mom role of sorts. There’s for sure room for a heart-felt scene between the two wherein Kasper drops a hammer like, “It’s time for me to leave my own legacy, dad.”
Leicester, against all odds, defeated the monetary beast that is European football. They are by no means a poor club, but they do not have the resources of the behemoths of football world like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Unfortunately in European football, every gifted young player migrates towards the top 10 richest clubs in Europe. Those clubs have the best chance of winning trophies, paying more, and supplying glory.
And it’s not cyclical, like in most sports. The Golden State Warriors were awful not too long ago; now they’re the best. In most professional sports leagues, the bad teams rise up eventually, then fall back down. In European soccer, the money doesn’t allow that to happen. The mega-rich clubs will buy themselves out of decline. The mid-level clubs sell their best players to the mega-rich. It’s a never ending stagnation of dominance.
Leicester City’s championship is a big “fuck you” to that phenomenon.
The Foxes have the third worst possession percentage and second worst pass completion percentage in the league. In a day and age where analytics and statistics play God, Leicester proved that a pure team effort could still pack a punch.
It wasn’t always the prettiest display, but it was always the ballsiest performance. In the words of my good friend Jake Minicucci, the Foxes “brought their own guts.” BRING YOUR OWN GUTS BABY BYOG.
Leicester’s dream will continue next year as they have been granted an automatic spot in the UEFA Champions League where they will play Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid, Lionel Messi and Barcelona, Manuel Neuer and Bayern Munich, and Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Paris St. Germain. I smell a sequel.
Sports fans have a unique chance to witness the aftermath of this unlikely occurrence. Leicester could continue to stick it to the man and continue forward with the same team and grow as a franchise. They could also cave to the temptations of wealth and sell their players to the big guns. Then, the stagnation of European soccer continues. Leicester has the rare chance to change the landscape of European soccer. Find out on the next edition of Nick Tries to Make People Like Soccer.