5,000 to 1 odds: Leicester City’s incredible title win

Courtesy of Samaa

Courtesy of Samaa

Manas Sood, Sports Editor

Just looking at the numbers, Leicester City appeared to not have even the slightest chance of winning the English Premier League (EPL) this year, or even coming close to doing so. The odds were stacked against them: 5,000 to 1, to be exact. To even qualify for the Champions League, the highest level of competition in Europe, they would have to place within the top four spots in the league, yet they managed to do all that and more, even though just two seasons before, Leicester City had been playing in the Championship, the second highest tier of English football. Their dramatic rise to the Premier League after winning the Championship playoffs was a highlight of their season, having been out of the top tier since 2004, and only competing in the EPL three times before the 2015-2016 season for stretches of just one year. Their improbable rise in English football was a direct result of the hard work of several players, especially Jamie Vardy, a former construction worker-turned-football legend, and Riyad Mahrez, a player who had been outcast by the club’s own supporters

Jamie Vardy is a classic example of a rags-to-riches tale. Six years ago, having been discarded by Sheffield Wednesday for being too small, he was playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels, earning beer money in the seventh tier of English football and working 10-hour shifts at a carbon fiber factory. After being arrested for assault, Vardy had to wear an ankle tag when he was with the club, and was not allowed to be outdoors after 6 pm. At away matches, he could only play one hour to get back in time. He was 20 and earning £30 a week. His first big break came when he joined fifth tier club FC Halifax, and soon after, he was scouted and purchased by Leicester City for a Non-League record transfer fee of one million pounds. Vardy broke the Premier League record for most games scored in consecutively, scoring in eleven matches.

Leicester City paid £400,000 for the Ligue 1 (top tier in France) reject, Riyad Mahrez, who went on to become the Premier League’s best player after winning the PFA Player of the Year award and the EPL. Mahrez beat £42.5 million Arsenal assist-king Mesut Ozil and £125,00-a-week West Ham maestro Dimitri Payet to the prize, which just emphasizes what an underdog story Leicester’s title win really is. Mahrez was a player previously deemed too slow and too small by a number of top French clubs during his days as a youth at Sarcelles, which subsequently resulted in a lack of attention and value. His technical skills made up for what he lacked, resulting in his transfer to Leicester. His commitment, desire, and his attitude also contributed to a wonderful season, as he scored 17 goals in just 35 matches, an astonishing record for a player once looked down upon by the entire football world.

From rejects to champions, the entire Leicester City squad should be commended for their perseverance and determination. The underdogs, who were very close to relegation last season, have proven that unlike the powerhouses of the EPL, money is not everything. A fairytale ending to a magnificent season, their story will be one told for decades to come.

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