May 04, 2016

Leicester City wins Premier League

Wait, what?

Here is a list of English football champions.  On inspection, you might notice that the Modern Premier League has had an unusual feature, namely that only four clubs are allowed to win.  In the 20 years prior to this season, the champions were:
  • Manchester United, 11 times
  • Chelsea FC, 4
  • Arsenal FC, 3
  • Manchester City, 2
With loyal fans and tycoon owners, these teams also lead the League in payroll, ensuring their continued dominance to perpetuity.

Contrarian to the last, I've always enjoyed rooting for the tail-enders, like Wolverhampton before their unfortunate relegation in 2012.  The drama of a team trying to avoid relegation - and the accompanying financial ruin - has a pathos almost unmatched in sport, and the joy of survival rivals that of winning the championship.

In short, Premier League is a microcosm of English society in the modern era.  A few lucky winners living large, a middle doing ok but never winning much (Tottenham), and everyone else scuffling along, trying to make the best of a hopeless situation.  The tail-enders are so hopeless that at the start of this season Ladbrokes was laying 5,000-1 on Leicester City.

That, it turns out, was a mistake:


They did it the wrong way, Gabriele Marcotti of ESPN FC notes:
This is not a team of promising kids, using their enthusiasm and talent as a bulwark against the pressure of expectations that comes from a title run. Nor is it a clutch of seasoned veterans, guys who've been there and done that and are using their experience for one final hurrah because they "know how to win." 
The average age of the starting XI is a ripe old 28. And you can fit the contents of the entire squad's trophy cabinets into duffel bag: there's Shinji Okazaki's 2011 Asian Cup with Japan, Robert Huth's two Premier League titles as a Chelsea benchwarmer a decade ago and Leo Ulloa's Argentine Clausura crown in 2007 as a teenager sitting at the end of the bench. 
They were nobodies, coached by a loser.  And the bookies lost their shirts.  From The Telegraph:
For the few punters bold enough to put cash on the season’s “joke bet”, the result means winnings of up to £100,000 each, though the nation’s bookmakers will be less than jubilant: between them they will be paying out £25 million, the biggest loss in British history on a single sporting market...  By way of comparison, the odds offered on Leicester winning were twice as long as the 2,500-1 odds offered on Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards winning ski-jumping gold at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
And for the metaphorically-minded, it reminds us that even the most unforgiving class systems can suddenly give way:
In an era when football fans accept that only the richest clubs stand any chance of success, unfashionable Leicester’s achievement will go down as one of the greatest in any sport, ever...
It was the first time in my lifetime that a Tier 3 club was able to fight its way all the way to the top (though Ipswich Town managed it in the late 50s - early 60s, when there were fewer tycoons about):

Hollywood is on the case:
The club’s turnaround was personified in Jamie Vardy, their top scorer, who was still working as a medical technician at the age of 25 before being spotted playing for a non-league side. Four years on, he is playing for England and his irresistible rags-to-riches story is being turned into a feature film.
They're huge in Algeria and Thailand, too.



Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

And the championship was decided by a draw between two other teams.


May 4, 2016 at 7:36 PM  

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