The partisanship that usually defines soccer in England seemed to be temporarily set aside as Leicester City's players were acclaimed as the People's Champions.
The partisanship that usually defines soccer in England seemed to be temporarily set aside as Leicester City’s players were acclaimed as the People’s Champions.
The unlikely run to the Premier League title has been embraced also by football fans around the world who followed the remarkable transformation of little Leicester from relegation candidate to champion.
Leicester was a second-tier club when it was bought in 2010 by the King Power duty free company, which is owned by Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprbha.
The Bangkok headquarters of King Power staged a screening of Sunday’s draw with Manchester United, attracting about 1,000 supporters.
The trophy was eventually clinched late Monday by second-place Tottenham’s draw at Chelsea, giving Leicester an insurmountable seven-point lead in the premiership.
When the Premier League trophy is presented to Leicester this weekend, it will be decorated with ribbons in the blue of Leicester and the yellow of Thailand’s royal house.
LEICESTER ON THE MAP
The highest Leicester had finished in the English top flight before winning the title this week was second in 1929. And few people beyond England paid much attention to the Foxes until this season.
”All the people around the world are asking for Leicester,” celebrated manager Claudio Ranieri said Tuesday.
”The second team in Italy is Leicester, in Thailand the first team is Leicester,” the 64-year-old Italian added. ”I’ve received letters from Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, everywhere (saying) `Leicester, Leicester, what a legend.”’
The Premier League has discovered it doesn’t require the elite of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to be involved in the title race for the competition to have global attention.
Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore said he has seen fans globally ”turning onto the Leicester phenomenon.”
”Ultimately if people are winning, people latch onto them,” Scudamore told the BBC.
ACCLAIMED IN ITALY
Ranieri is a hero at home in Italy after engineering Leicester’s glory within a year of taking the job, his first topflight title in management.
Above an image of Ranieri depicted as the Roman emperor Claudius, Tuesday’s front page of the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper read: ”King Claudio.”
Matteo Renzi, the Italian premier, said Leicester’s title showed ”fairytales simply come true.”
”For those who followed Mr. Ranieri all season, saying every Sunday with less and less belief, `It’s impossible,’ today is a day for the history books,” Renzi said.
BACKING IN BRITAIN
Leicester’s victory is a rare domestic soccer success that seemed to spark affection rather than the usual acrimony. Twitter reported an 86 percent spike in usual activity in Britain as Leicester clinched the title.
Prime Minister David Cameron acclaimed an ”extraordinary, thoroughly deserved” first top-flight title for the 132-year-old club.
Even London-based Jose Mourinho was joining in the celebrations. Mourinho was fired by Chelsea in December directly after his championship-winning team lost to Leicester.
”I lost my title to Claudio Ranieri and it is with incredible emotion that I live this magic moment in his career,” said Mourinho, who replaced Ranieri as Chelsea manager 12 years ago for his first stint in charge.
Chelsea captain John Terry, who played under Ranieri at Stamford Bridge, wrote on Instagram that he is a ”real gentleman and a top manager.”
Thousands of fans descended on Leicester’s King Power Stadium on Monday night to celebrate the title win.
”I woke up this morning and had to check my phone because I thought I was dreaming,” said Harry Phillips, a 21-year-old student. ”I saw dozens of photos from last night with thousands of people celebrating and realized it wasn’t a dream and it was like I felt that feeling of us being champions again.”
As Leicester secured the championship on Monday, fan Mark Selby was winning his own a world title – in snooker.
”I don’t know what’s more of a shock,” Selby said. ”Me winning the title twice or Leicester becoming the champions.”