What’s the story?
5000-1 outsiders Leicester City have pulled off the unthinkable feat of winning English football’s Premier League. The unfancied team, assembled for a fraction of the cost of most top sides, won the title with two games to spare, in what is widely being regarded as one of the biggest achievements in the history of team sport.
It is one of the all-time great sporting stories; one of the best ever examples of the underdog overcoming the odds. Leicester City, a relatively small club that had previously only tasted modest success, have won the English Premier League with two games to spare.
Managed by a quiet Italian who most believed had his best days behind him, a team assembled for just £23 million (about a quarter of the cost of Gareth Bale) simply processed through the season with win after unlikely win. Many of their players were so-called ‘journeymen’ with long and previously undistinguished careers behind them; their two main stars – Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez – cost a combined total of £1.5 million. Thanks to an extraordinary and unusual team spirit, and a knack of grinding out unexpected victories against much bigger clubs, the team began to inspire belief among the footballing public that Leicester might actually be able to win the league.
Many underdog teams have won knockout ‘cup’ competitions before, but this was very different. Leicester, who the previous season had only just managed to avoid relegation, were competing in a 38-match league, against teams of players valued at over £200 million. No team outside of the elite group of clubs had won the league since 1995… and yet Leicester triumphed. It’s a feat which has united fans of every club in excitement, and which has restored faith in a ‘beautiful game’ tarnished by the impact of money, which seemed to have created a system where only the richest clubs would thrive.
Next season, Leicester City will take part in the lucrative Champions League, where they could face giants of the game like Barcelona and Real Madrid. And with a Hollywood film in the works about the unlikely rise of star striker Vardy, one thing’s for sure – the great Leicester City underdog story certainly isn’t over yet.
What have others been saying?
Ian Paul has written brilliantly for Christian Today about what Leicester’s title win can teach the church about leadership.
#1 – FAITH
Football fans are often asked to show “confidence in what we hope for” and demonstrate “assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11 v 1). As a modern form of religion for many, following a football team requires great faith, which is often not repaid. In Leicester’s case, a whole city was issuing an encouragement to ‘believe’ and to ‘keep the faith’ as the unlikely story of Leicester’s season unfolded. There are some profound lessons here about how believers can build up and encourage others in their journey.
#2 – UNDERDOGS
God loves an underdog, as proved from his relationship with Israel right through to the Early Church. And of course, the Bible contains the greatest underdog story of all; David and Goliath, a story which has great parallels with the Leicester City story. In Scripture, God is never on the side of the proud, the rich or the ‘establishment’; instead he seems to favour those who demonstrate humility, submission and service to others (or you might say teamwork), and a commitment to acting out of love instead of self-interest. As Proverbs 3 v 34 says (requoted by Peter in 1 Peter 5 v5), ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’ Maybe Leicester had a bit of divine help…
Points for prayer
Pray that Leicester’s famous win will have positive effects in the city itself; uniting the community and bringing a real sense of joy and pride.
Pray that children and young people will be inspired by this amazing story, not only to get out and kick a football around, but also to learn from a story about team work being more important than money.
- Pray for Leicester’s team – that they’ll stay grounded after their win, and find a real sense of meaning in their remarkable achievement.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.