Leicester City was a 5,000-1 shot to win Premier League title
Club wins league with two matches to go
Leicester only just escaped demotion at end of last season
Club has never won England's top division
Is this sport’s most unlikely triumph? A 5,000-1 shot has won soccer’s richest league.
Leicester City, a team which has never won England’s top division, claimed the crown Monday after Tottenham Hotspur – the only other side which could spoil the dream – drew at Chelsea.
If you want to know just how big a shock Leicester’s triumph is then ponder this.
At the start of last August, just weeks after Leicester had escaped demotion from the Premier League where it had spent most of the year 20th out of 20, you would have got better odds on Kim Kardashian becoming president of the U.S by 2020 and Hugh Hefner confessing to being a virgin, than Leicester City winning the title.
Bookmakers were offering odds of 2000-1 on Kardashian becoming leader of the U.S. in four years time, while Hefner’s rather unlikely admission was set at odds of 200-1.
When you think that the Cleveland Browns, who are 200-1 to win the 2017 Super Bowl, have the worst odds going in the NFL, even though unlike Leicester, it has actually won an NFL title (yes, in 1964), it shows why the tale of Leicester’s Foxes has captured the imagination of the watching world.
If you want a sporting comparison which U.S. fans might be able to use as a marker the then take the New York Mets team of 1969, which won the World Series with a 4-1 win over the 109-win Baltimore Orioles in one of the biggest shocks baseball has ever seen.
So certain was one sports anchor that Leicester would not win the title, he vowed to present his show wearing just his underwear if they pulled it off.
Now this team which nobody gave a prayer to is leading network shows around the world, starring on the front pages of newspapers and driving traffic all over the internet.
Leicester’s run to the top of the Premier League has captured not only the attention of domestic viewers but millions across the world.
The club, which is owned by Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was playing in the third tier of English football just seven years ago.
But since the arrival of Srivaddhanaprabha, who purchased the club for $57 million in 2010, it has gone from strength to strength.
After winning promotion to the Premier League in 2014, Leicester was forced to produce an astonishing run of seven victories from its final nine games to avoid demotion.
Nigel Pearson, the former coach, was let go and the club brought in Claudio Ranieri, an Italian coach who had just been fired by the Greek national team after losing to minnow Faroe Islands.
Ranieri talked about keeping Leicester in the division and making sure it attained the safety mark of 40 points which is usually enough to avoid demotion in the English system, which sees the bottom three teams dropped from the Premier League at the end of each season to be replaced by the three teams from the second level, the Championship.
A polite and gentle man, Ranieri, who likes to shake hands with every single journalist attending his press conferences, was not expected to remain in his job beyond Christmas.
Yet, while the pundits fell over themselves to read Leicester its last rites, the team and Ranieri, started giving back big time.
A 4-2 win on the opening day was the start of a run which would include just two defeats in 18 games.
Much of the success has come down to a solid defense and an explosive counter attacking trio of Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy.
Algeria’s Mahrez, who was signed from the second division of French football for $585,000, was named Premier League Player of the Year last week, the first African to win the award.
His spectacular goals, 17 in 34 games, and crucial assists have allowed Leicester to shock opponents week in, week out.
France’s Kante, an all-action midfielder, has been one of the outstanding players in Europe this season and is being courted by some of the world’s biggest clubs.
And then there’s Englishman Vardy - a player who was working in a carbon-fiber factory seven years ago while playing semi-professional football after being released as a young player by Sheffield Wednesday.
Vardy, who is set to feature for England at the European Championship finals in June, has netted 22 times in 34 appearances in the league this season and has become the icon of this team’s quest.
Rejected, doubted and written off, he has come back to climb from the depths of the professional game towards the very top.
His teammates, such as captain Wes Morgan, who at the age of 32, has spent most of his career playing in the lower leagues, and Danny Drinkwater, given up on by Manchester United, have also become heroes on a national scale.
But it is the collective spirit of this unbreakable band of brothers which has endured.
It has seen off the richest clubs in the country such as Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal, while others such as Liverpool and Chelsea never had a chance.
Its victories over Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, which sits second, were particularly impressive, as was the 4-0 win over Swansea which left it on the brink.
Victory at Manchester United’s fabled Old Trafford ground Sunday would have sealed the title, but the 1-1 draw meant Leicester would have to wait until Tottenham failed to beat Chelsea Monday to clinch the crown.
What’s its secret?
So how has Leicester (pronounced Less-ter) managed it? Is there something in the air? Well, maybe.
It can’t just be a coincidence that the team’s fortunes have been transformed since the reburial of King Richard III at the city’s cathedral.
The body of Richard III, the last English king to be killed in battle in 1485, was discovered by archaeologists in a city car park.
One of the greatest finds of modern day archeology, he was laid to rest in March 2015 with thousands of locals turning out to watch his funeral parade.
Since the old king was laid to rest, Leicester have been nigh on unstoppable.
And that might not be the only supernatural force guiding Leicester towards glory – divine intervention might be on its side too.
Over the past three years, Buddhist monks have been visiting the club to bless the field at King Power Stadium, while bestowing special sacred cloths on the players and spreading karma.
Chief monk Phra Prommangkalachan is in little doubt that his unseen powers are propelling Leicester’s unforeseen rise.
“When they (Leicester City) were at the bottom of the Premier League, Mr. Vichai said ‘we do not have enough merit,” Phra Prommangkalachan told CNN.
“He is a Buddhist who truly believes in good and bad karma.
“So he set about making good karma by building temples and supporting ordained monks both in and out of the country. He was determined to make good karma, and he has become successful.”
It’s not only the monks who have enjoyed Leicester’s success – fans all over Thailand have gone mad for the team from the east Midlands of England.
Thailand’s top sports broadcaster – Peerapol “Champ” Euariyakul, who has close links with the owners – told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane that the ambitions of Vichai and his son Aiyawatt are inspiring Thai people to dream big.
“They’ve shown that fame and salary isn’t important,” he said.
“What matters more is the heart, the unity and the belief. It’s inspired people to think if Leicester can do it – even if I’m a small guy, even if I’m a small team, we can accomplish anything.”
Leicester has proved sporting fairytales can come true.