THE BLOG

Leicester on Top of the World

09/05/2016 16:38 | Updated 09 May 2016

If you were the man on the moon on Saturday 7 May at 5.30pm, there is only one place on earth that you would have been focused on. The King Power stadium literally exploded with an ocean of joy as the Premier League trophy was lifted.

There are few things that Britain loves more than the triumph of the true underdog. The plucky, determined, indefatigable competitor is the hero across film, literature and sport, but this has not been the case for the English Premier League title for such a long time.

Until now.

Leicester City Football Club, on the brink of administration only a few years ago, with multiple managers and owners in the last ten years, who made the great escape last season, with 5000-1 odds on winning the title this year, have made footballing history by winning the title, 10 points clear of their nearest rivals Tottenham, and 1000 decibels ahead in our celebrations.

It is a huge moment for Leicester, for football and for sport. Now is Leicester's time for global recognition.

Tigers and Foxes

Our city is no slouch when it comes to sport. Leicester has seen triumph with the Leicester Tigers, the most successful English rugby club since the introduction of league rugby in 1987, being English champions a record 10 times. Mark Selby has added to the celebrations in Leicester when on 2nd May he won a second World Snooker Championship.

Whilst this may be their greatest triumph, by no means has Leicester City Football Club been anonymous during its 132 year history. The club has a joint-highest seven second-tier titles and are 3 time winners of the League Cup (as recently as 1997 and 2000 under Martin O'Neill).

However, and with the greatest respect to the Championship, League Cup and of course to the English Rugby League, there is something special about the Premier League. It is the globe's premier club sporting competition, the most watched national sporting league ever, and one of the richest.

Indeed, when we talk about money, Leicester's team costs the club £57m a year, a quarter of that at Manchester United or Manchester City. This is not just any sporting triumph, this is David beating several Goliaths.

Clubs across the country with much more money than Leicester will be wondering how the club found players like Vardy, Mahrez and Kante, who are now global megastars. Others will recognise the masterstroke of hiring Claudio Ranieri, an ambitious and controversial decision.

For this, huge credit must go to Leicester's owner, Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who since taking charge in 2010, has made miracles happen at the King Power Stadium and brought families back to football. He with his son Aiyawatt, called 'Top' in Leicester, have been ever-present at training sessions and matches.

Leicester's Moment

For those of us living in, familiar with, or representing the city of Leicester, this win also means something much deeper, emotional and existential.

Many people have commented that Leicester is a small, quiet city in the Midlands, often overshadowed by its neighbour Nottingham. They would be wrong. Apart from sport, it is now the home of Richard III, the National Space Centre, and we have won the X-Factor with Sam Bailey. Leicester's cityscape has developed remarkably under the leadership of its mayor Sir Peter Soulsby.

I have represented the city for over 28 years with pride. Time and time again, it proves itself to be a dynamic, welcoming and unique city.

And on a Bank Holiday Monday, when an Eden Hazard goal for Chelsea confirmed Leicester City's status as Premier League Champions, the city shook with joy. A moment I and many others will never forget.

Britain's Heart

In many ways, Leicester is a mirror of the world. It is probably one of the most multicultural cities in Europe, where a rainbow of communities live together in harmony. Its history and its progress has been shaped by the arrival of ethnic minorities communities, working in harmony with all other communities.

In fact, the team and its owners demonstrate this, with a Thai owner, an Italian Manager, an Irish Chief Executive, Susan Whelan, a Captain with origins in Jamaica, Wes Morgan, and a flourishing academy which draws upon players from the local community.

Leicester has a distinctive culture that these groups have brought with them. Our city is home to the most delicious curries in Britain, the most incredible jewellery shops on the Golden Mile, and some of the most beautiful and unique religious buildings in the country.

There are few other cities in the world where the passion for rugby and football runs alongside a love for Bollywood. The average house in the city may well contain a poster of Kasper Schmeichel opposite one of Amitabh Bachchan.

When it demonstrates time and time again its tolerance and sense of community, it effortlessly promotes the best our country has to offer. Leicester's greatest strength is that it combines its unique and distinctive qualities with being a very English city, indeed I would say at the heart of Britain.

The Future

Leicester should enjoy this moment. After the victory, Prime Minister David Cameron opened his question time in Parliament with a glowing tribute to the Football Club, a gracious gesture from someone whose team had just been relegated!

And with the success of the Foxes, the city itself will at last get the recognition it deserves. When people across the world spin a globe, they will point to Leicester; when they visit the United Kingdom, they may now make the journey to the centre of world club football, the King Power stadium.

Leicester's motto, 'Semper Eadem' means 'Always the Same'. This is a rare moment to disagree with history, but things are not the same in Leicester anymore, and they will never be again.

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