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Romance is not dead in football

Published : May 4, 2016, 6:57 am IST
Updated : May 4, 2016, 6:57 am IST

It’s no longer a dream. Leicester City are champions of England. Neutral fans can rejoice because the Foxes have proved that romantic tales aren’t extinct in money-fuelled modern-day football.

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It’s no longer a dream. Leicester City are champions of England. Neutral fans can rejoice because the Foxes have proved that romantic tales aren’t extinct in money-fuelled modern-day football. Claudio Ranieri’s team have made teamwork sizzling again.

A team who had never won the FA Cup, leave alone the league, have gate-crashed into the conscience of sport lovers in every corner of the world. Leicester’s achievement has been compared to Miracle on Ice (USA’s win over Russia in ice hockey at the 1980 Winter Olympics) among other benchmarks in various sports. In English football, Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest who won back to back European Cups in 1978-79 and 1979-80 come close to the feat of the Foxes. But we must remember that upsets aren’t uncommon in knockout competitions. Winning the league is infinitesimally tougher for a small team in the globalised era of billionaires-owned clubs.

Even the most optimistic of Leicester fans wouldn’t have believed at the start of the season that his club, Ranieri, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez would become household names in England and beyond by May. Mahrez, the Algerian winger with a velvet touch in his left-foot, thought Leicester City were a rugby club before he joined the EPL team in 2014. Football has always been a fertile ground for feel-good stories but Leicester’s is too good to believe.

The roster of Leicester is not brimming with players with weighty CVs. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Ranieri has forged a first-rate team with players who were thought to be second-class. As the affable Italian would vouch, it’s easier to build a team with willing players than sulking superstars. Ranieri, 64, also came of age, though belatedly, with Leicester. He had never won a top-division title in his peripatetic career.

Ranieri is the antithesis of Jose Mourinho in attitude and his friendly nature took pressure off Leicester players. Avoiding relegation was the club’s priority at the start of the season. They felt liberated once that target was achieved, even though pundits always believed that meltdown in the title race was around the corner. On the home stretch, Leicester showed true grit.

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