The diehards in Singapore

Football: A time for redemption as loyalty pays off

Martin Runshaug (above) and Ben Wheeler (below right) are long-time Leicester fans way before this season.
Martin Runshaug (above) and Ben Wheeler are long-time Leicester fans way before this season.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES & ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Martin Runshaug (above) and Ben Wheeler (below right) are long-time Leicester fans way before this season.
Martin Runshaug and Ben Wheeler (above) are long-time Leicester fans way before this season.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES & ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

With footballing technique that befits his name and better known for his wild hair, the mention of Robbie Savage brings a twinkle to the eyes of Martin Runshaug.

The PR from Norway has followed the fortunes of Leicester City for two decades and right now, he has earned the right to celebrate as the Foxes close in on one of the sport's greatest-ever triumphs.

The 37-year-old bachelor, who has lived in Singapore for the past 13 years and runs the candy distributing firm Scan-Food, studied at the University of Leicester and attended matches at the old Filbert Street stadium to watch Savage, his favourite player, in action.

 

Runshaug said: "I don't know if it will ever happen again, but finally there's something big to cheer about for the football club."

As Runshaug recalled those days: "We were always seen as the potential giant-slayers but I always knew we were never expected to win those big games."

But today, the Foxes have players more gifted and refined than Savage and are just four games, and possibly less, away from a stunning and seismic title win.

TIME FOR A CHANGE

Everyone here supports the top clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and even Spurs. Nobody really cares or talks about Leicester.

BEN WHEELER, money broker, on how hard it is to discover a fellow Leicester fan in Singapore in his 11 years here.

Based in Singapore since 2005, Leicester native Ben Wheeler recalled the disbelief in the city when he flew home last Christmas and watched the game against Manchester City at the King Power Stadium.

The 36-year-old said: "Everyone was sort of pinching ourselves. We were second in the table. I even joked on Twitter that that match was the title-decider.

"Yet here we are now, way ahead of City, and with a good possibility of clinching the title."

Another thing that unites both expatriate Leicester fans here is the difficulty in following the Foxes owing to the absence of live TV broadcasts of the lower-tier League One and Championship matches.

Runshaug meets with a group of 13 fans at Robertson Quay during the weekends but none of them are Singaporeans and he has yet to meet a local Leicester fan.

Likewise, Wheeler, a money broker, has found just one other Foxes supporter in his 11 years in the Republic.

Wheeler said: "Everyone here supports the top clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and even Spurs. Nobody really cares or talks about Leicester."

Financial planner Preston Phillips, 51, is not afraid to show his allegiance. The Singaporean said: "I stuck out like a sore thumb when I wore my Leicester jersey to play football with my friends. I was a joke among them."

But these Leicester fans had clocked in the time during the years when the club was out of the EPL and played in the lower divisions.

Runshaug said: "I was supporting them even when they were nothing, and it's unique being a Leicester supporter because I'm not going with a team that's always winning."

•Additional reporting by Aleysa John

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'A time for redemption as loyalty pays off'. Print Edition | Subscribe