Most football pundits predicted that Leicester City would be one of the three teams relegated from the English Premier League this year.
Nine months later the rank outsiders were crowned champions with two games to spare.
Leicester’s triumph counts as one of the greatest sporting shocks, especially for bookmakers who were offering odds as long as 5,000-1 for a Leicester title win last August.
British bookie Ladbrokes even included the wager in some of its joke bets, such as Elvis Presley being found alive. The odds on British Prime Minister David Cameron being appointed manager of his favourite team Aston Villa were shorter at 2,500-1, i.e. the betting agencies thought it twice as likely to happen as Leicester’s win.
The reverberations of the Foxes’ success have reached China, with even the People’s Daily paying tribute to the new champions.
“Leicester City is like a duck swimming in the water. On the surface it seems to be doing nothing but underneath there is a lot of effort and kicking,” the newspaper noted, pointing to the hard work of the club’s backroom staff in using big data techniques and scouting unlikely areas of the transfer market.
These days Chinese football teams have money to burn (see WiC313) so local pundits believe there’s a lot to be learned from Leicester. One lesson is to invest carefully, says Guangzhou Daily. It notes that the team’s owner – Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the boss of Thai duty-free franchise King Power – has only spent about £60 million ($86 million). “Chinese billionaires should not only focus on big names if they want to invest in foreign football clubs. Sometimes there is much higher value in smaller clubs,” the newspaper suggests.
Others drew inspiration from Leicester’s success, hoping that it would inspire other unfancied teams to victory.
“If Leicester City can win the English Premiership, why can’t China win the World Cup,” one pundit pleaded on Netease Sports.
The odds of China achieving this improbable feat in Russia in 2018 were 3,500-1 last month (again, according to British bookies), Xinhua news agency noted.
Leicester’s commercial presence in China is limited – the club only recently launched an official weibo account. But teenager Zhang Tianbo has been running his own weibo devoted to the team for two years, and he picked up thousands of new followers as the season progressed. Leicester’s new popularity is a far cry from from his earlier experience, Zhang told AFP. “It was lonely. I couldn’t find anyone to discuss things with,” he recalls.
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