Against all odds, Leicester are Premier League champs

Leicester City fans celebrating their team becoming the English Premier League champions in central Leicester on Monday after Chelsea held Tottenham Hotspur to a 2-2 draw.
Leicester City fans celebrating their team becoming the English Premier League champions in central Leicester on Monday after Chelsea held Tottenham Hotspur to a 2-2 draw.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Relegation candidates' triumph being hailed as the closest thing to a sporting miracle

LONDON • From being called "the greatest triumph in English football history" to "a fairy-tale win", Leicester City's unlikely capture of the English Premier League title is being hailed as quite possibly the closest thing to a sporting miracle.

Written off as relegation candidates at the start of the English football season, when they were 5,000-1 outsiders to win the league, Leicester were crowned champions on Monday with two games to spare after Chelsea fought back from 0-2 down to hold Tottenham to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Claudio Ranieri described winning the Premier League title as an "amazing feeling" and paid tribute to his Leicester City players for completing one of the most remarkable stories in the history of competitive sport. "I'm so proud," said the Italian. "I'm so happy for everyone."

Leicester, who won promotion to the Premier League only two years ago and flirted with immediate relegation last season, embarked on a remarkable run to clinch their first league title for 132 years.

To many pundits, it ranks alongside Brian Clough's 1977-78 Nottingham Forest side - who lifted the top-flight title in the year they were promoted - and Croatian tennis player Goran Ivanisevic becoming the first wild card to win the men's singles title at Wimbledon in 2001 as the greatest-ever sporting feat.

Backed by Thai duty-free magnate Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha of King Power fame, the unfancied Foxes now find themselves assured of Champions League football next season, where they could find themselves rubbing shoulders with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Mr Srivaddhanaprabha's son and Leicester's vice-chairman Aiyawatt has already pledged that the best will remain at the club. He told Thai media: "We are not the team that will sell players for money. So I can confirm that we will keep all major players with the team."

In the stratified air of modern- day Big Football, a triumph like Leicester's seemed not just remote but impossible.

But it did not come as a complete surprise. The Foxes have spent most of the season in first place - they lost only three times in the league - and fought off challenge after challenge for months.

Bookmaker Sky Bet said it paid out £4.6 million (S$9 million) to punters who picked Leicester to win the title, with 128 putting money on the team at the 5,000-1 odds.

And now from nowhere we have this, a season that has quite literally morphed into a Hollywood script.

Indeed, a Jamie Vardy movie is already in pre-production, based on the life and times of Leicester's improbable top scorer, a late-blooming, whippet-thin, scaldingly quick journeyman striker. Even in sport, there are fairy-tale endings.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Against all odds, Leicester are Premier League champs'. Print Edition | Subscribe