Leicester’s unique success
The nature of football means that when it captivates people in their youth it rarely lets go, and their relationships with it never really grow up. No matter how they move on with everything else in their lives, no matter what they achieve in other avenues, when it comes to football, all fans are children. It’s what causes them to argue pedantically over trivial matters, form strange, emotional attachments to millionaire’s they’ve never met, and – in the case of Leicester City this season – experience a unique, innocent joy that they could never have seen coming.
Gary Lineker’s support of his home town team has been well publicised across the season. His passion for the club is hardly a surprise, but in a sport where players regularly leave clubs in an attempt to fulfil personal ambitions elsewhere, it’s striking that a man who was involved in campaigns to win domestic leagues and European and World Cups, can honestly say, ‘I don’t think I have ever wanted something to happen more in sport in my entire life than for Claudio Ranieri’s side to win the Premier League.’ It’s a passion that is, amongst other things, incredibly unselfish. Lineker’s trophy cabinet won’t benefit from this title win, but it seems to have meant more to him than any trophy or award he won, or endeavoured to win, himself. Even in other sports, stars have allowed Leicester’s success to rival their own. When Mark Selby won the World Snooker Championship – sealing victory on the same night Leicester’s were confirmed Premier League champions – he posed for photographs not only with his trophy, but with a Fox’s flag draped over him.
Away from sport, Leicester born, Man Booker Prize winning Author, Julian Barnes has described how this season has gradually disrupted his grown up, sensible relationship with football. While he used to be able to ignore match scores until watching Match of the Day on a Saturday night, he gradually found himself first checking results immediately after the match, then eventually obsessively watching live text updates across the afternoons. Likewise, Kasabian guitarist, Serge Pizzorno, whose songs, which were used as part of Sky’s football coverage, were once a more permanent part of the Premier League than Leicester City themselves, has said that plans are already in place to enjoy the champions league next year.
The fantastical nature of it means you don’t have to be a Leicester fan to have been caught up in it. Opera star, Andrea Bocelli, who sang Nessun Dorma to Claudio Ranieri and the Leicester fans at the clubs coronation as Premier League champions last weekend, has revealed that he was the one that initiated the idea; calling the clubs achievements, “a lesson in life”. He says, “I got Ranieri’s number…I called him and said: ‘Look Ranieri, it’s Bocelli, I would love to do this thing.’
It captured our childlike sporting imaginations because it was beyond imagination a few short months ago, and we dare not let it pass because (although predictions at this stage feel dangerous) it will in all likelihood never happen again.
Bocelli’s appearance was another example of the magnitude and universalism of what Leicester have achieved. If this feels bigger than football, bigger than sport, it’s because it doesn’t quite fit into the standard limitations of either. It captured our childlike sporting imaginations because it was beyond imagination a few short months ago, and we dare not let it pass because (although predictions at this stage feel dangerous) it will in all likelihood never happen again.
Barnes’ booker prize winning novel says, “What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” Perhaps in years to come these famous Leicester fans, and Leicester fans in general, will have to dig out the images of this miraculous season to remind themselves that in this instance, it was.