Leicester City is one of the oldest cities located in the Midlands region of England. Less than half a million folks live there. Sir Peter Soulsby is the Mayor. Leicester City Football Club, known also as the Foxes, was founded in 1884. The club is owned by the King Power International Group and the Chairman is a 58-year old Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. The 64-year-old Italian Claudio Ranieri manages the club. It is worth less than 57 million Pounds. Leicester City’s fame as the burial place of England’s famous monarch, King Richard III was augmented by the soccer miracle that happened few weeks back. As their other name indicates they outfoxed other big names and clubs to make history and make name for themselves worldwide.
The English Barclays-sponsored Premier League ended the 2015/16 football season in style recently. In France, Germany, Spain and Italy the season is equally over. Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) won the League 1 title with little or no opposition; Bayern Munich predictably took the Bundesliga title in Germany while Barcelona FC of King Messi, Suarez and Neymah (the famous MSN machine) encountered some opposition but prevailed in the end in Spain’s la Liga. Juventus surprised no one by winning the trophy in the Italian Serie A. But they had fumbled in the beginning but later regained their full strength and dominated Napoli and others in a commanding manner.
But in England history was made as the little-known Leicester city FC seized the league trophy in one of the biggest shocks in footballing history. By some measures it was the greatest sporting upset ever recorded, a demonstration of the audacity of hope! Soccer bookmakers and pundits never saw it coming and very few people (if any at all) gave the boys any chance of doing what they did. They were said to have been given 5000 — 1 chance of lifting the cup yet they did it in grand style to the amazement of those doubting Thomases who failed to understand that sometimes triumph occurs unpredictably.
Last year Leicester survived relegation to the second division by the skin of their teeth. After gaining promotion to the Premier league the year before the club escaped relegation and consolidated its meagre fortunes. In the season under review however they played 38 matches, won 23, drew 12 and lost only 3! They had 81 points with goal difference of 32. Tottenham Hotspur (popularly referred to as the Spurs) put up a good fight to the finish but failed to stop Leicester from making history. They made it to Champions League competition later this year though by coming in third position having been knocked off second by Arsenal. The two Manchester-based clubsides (United and City) occupied the fourth and fifth places n the final table. Manchester United consoled herself with an FA trophy even though Jose Mourinho upstaged Luis Van Gaal for the managership position in the rich club.
A purpose-driven team without individual egos or inferiority complex Leicester FC defeated almost all the dreaded big teams in Premier league: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and City. Arsenal only beat them by sheer luck in Emirates Stadium coming from a goal deficit. When they played Chelsea and trounced them at their home-ground of Stamford Bridge only one Chelsea player, Diego Costa, was said to be worth more than the whole Leicester players! Money or net worth does not play football but men on the field; so when players were bought for millions of dollars to boost investment and achievement only for the backyard boys to claim glory some introspection ought to be instigated.
There are valid lessons deducible from the attainment of soccer glory and greatness by Leicester City FC. First and foremost is the power of prayers. And the others are the power of dreams, humility, hardwork and discipline. It was reported that some notable Budhist monks in Bangkok were recruited and flown to Leicester city to offer prayers for the club and players. They even went to the King Power Stadium to ‘exorcise’ the ‘demons’ within thereby ‘neutralizing’ whatever tenebrous forces inhabiting any space in and around the sporting complex! And the boys were reportedly ‘rebaptised’ by the visiting monks as incantations were made. They never departed from the prayer points until sweet victory was achieved.
Although it has been argued that faith has little or nothing to do with sports in general and football in particular a good prayer prayed with a good heart is capable of moving mountains and making the impossible possible. The biblical David, even in this modern time, can still slain Goliath with faithful forceful prayer! Indeed, in Thailand, many people had already attributed the victory to the supernatural powers of Buddhism in a deeply religious country. But that remains debatable as pundits await the repeat of the feat or the labelling of the success as flash in the pan. Whilst it is true that there is still a supernatural force above that answers prayers spiritualism has no place in modern sports.
Another lesson is that of dream. If we dream big and work towards realising such dream by meticulously fixing the goal the sky could be our limit. When and where there is the will then there must be a way. Dreams are conceived in the heart and transported to the reality by way of methodical fulfilment. But some dreams could die because the dreamer has no plans of achieving his dreams or making them come true. When a dream is dreamt the next thing is to conceptualise how to make same possible no matter the imaginable odds. Leicester city owner, coaching crew, players all dreamt big and played hard to bring it to accomplishment to the astonishment of the world soccer community.
Yet another lesson is that of hardwork. There is no success without a dint of hardwork accompanying it. The boys listened to the instructions of their coach, trained hard on the pitch and played great games. They never allowed themselves to be intimidated by the great established names like Diego Costa, Mesut Ozil, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Wayne Rooney or Eden Hazard. They played like a team desperate to keep a date with beckoning destiny. Wes Morgan, Daniel Amartey, Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kanté, Jamie Vardy, Leonardo Ulloa, Riyad Mahrez, Shinji Okazaki and the others made name for themselves by not only winning the professional league title (hitherto reserved for the big five) but by qualifying for the prestigious UEFA Champions league competition.
Talking about the Champions League and Europa League it is interesting to see Spain positioning herself as the soccer powerhouse of Europe by winning both continental trophies this year. Just last night in Milan Italy two Madrid-based clubsides slugged it out for the Champions league final match. In a pulsating encounter featuring Real Madrid FC and Athletico Madrid FC the former once again denied the latter of a merited opportunity to lift the trophy. In a thrilling soccer show that lived up to expectation the famous ‘BBC’ (Benzema, Bale and Cristiano) could do it only after extra time and penalty shoot-out which they narrowly won. Coach Zinedine Zidane was a happy man indeed having won that trophy with Real as both a playerr and now manager. But Athletico Madrid gave a good account of themselves and could have done better had it not been the Griezmann penalty miss in the second half. A technically strong squad coached by the unstable Diego Simeone had achieved great exploits in the run-up to the final by eliminating two favourites, Barcelona and Bayern Munich! Before then FC Sevilla had ‘manhandled’ Liverpool of England in the Europa league final played few weeks ago.
Humility and discipline can go together in this final case of lessons to be learnt. The triumphant team were disciplined and humility was on full display on or off the pitch. When you are disciplined in whatever you want to do or become in life refusing the spirit of arrogance or vain-gloriousness to inhabit your world-view then success is assured. From coach Ranieri down to the benchwarmers in the team everyone respected themselves and others. Even the Coach, with three more matches to go, had refused to acknowledge victory early enough though satisfied that qualification for the elite Champions League was a foregone conclusion. He had said calmly that he was seeing Tottenham snapping the title even though it was almost certain then that history was in the making.
Now that victory has been accomplished definitively and deafeningly it is hoped that the winning team would be kept together for more soccer exploits in the near future. The temptation must be resisted to sell away good players like Vardy. If the triumphant boys and their coaching crew are held together for future battles other greater achievements could follow. We congratulate the owner, the Coach and the players for making the impossible possible. And reminding us all of the need for us to be positive and passionate in life.
With the spirit of pride and hubris tamed and that of hardwork and discipline maintained and re-inforced then there is no mountain too high to climb and no odd or obstacle too difficult to surmount.