By Suresh Nair

COME on, Malaysia: There are many heartwarming lessons to learn from Leicester City’s incredible English Premier League title success.

Whenever sporting fans say they dare to dream in the future, Leicester City showed they really can. Sometimes it just takes a long, long time.

Whenever footballers face richer rivals with more talent and vast trophy hauls, the tale of this unassuming English club from the unglamorous East Midlands,will inspire underdogs from Perlis to Pahang, Sarawak to Selangor to really believe they, too, can achieve the impossible dream.

The Foxes (Leicester’s nickname) started this season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title. The odds are almost like Malaysia winning the World Cup!

Now for the first time in its 132-year history, they’re champion of England after establishing an insurmountable seven-point lead over second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, with two games remaining. Spurs fumbled after leading 2-0 against Chelsea for a 2-2 draw and ended their title challenge.


This uplifting tale of underdog vanquishing the mighty will reverberate through the decades. For Malaysian fans, the phrase “doing a Leicester” will now enter the sporting dictionary.

Leicester’s success drew reaction the world over from Brazil to Bhutan, Canada to China, Malaysia to Mali, with The New York Times describing their triumph as “one of the most remarkable seasons in soccer history”.

“All this has been achieved by a team of cast-offs, misfits, and journeymen. No-one else wanted Leicester’s players; if they had these players would not have been at Leicester,” wrote Alex Massie in Time magazine.

“Even if reality returns with a vengeance next season and English football is once again dominated by the biggest battalions no-one will ever forget these little Foxes. They have rewritten the rulebook and, in the process, reminded us all of what sport is really all about.”


The presence of Asians in Leicester’s success, too, is remarkably inspiring. Owned by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, a Thai billionaire who controls the King Power retail group, a chain of lucrative duty-free shops in Thailand. Leicester have a plush training facility, and a spacious, modern 32,000-seat stadium – they’re no paupers.

Srivaddhanaprabha pays about US$20,000 each home game for fans to rattle their little cardboard clappers while they’re watching the match: It helps make the King Power Stadium one of the league’s noisiest grounds.

Mind you, in recent months, more Asians are now coming to the European footballing front from Singapore’s Peter Lim, who has bought Valencia. Malaysia’s famous “Mr AirAsia” Tony Fernandes with Queen’s Park Rangers (QPR), Vincent Tan with Cardiff City and Indonesia’s Erick Thohir with big stakes in Inter-Milan.

Even in team tactics, under (manager) Claudio Ranieri, the team’s formula is simple but effective. Good for Malaysia to learn: They defend deep, play on the counter-attack and eliminate risk: you won’t see Leicester players caught in possession on the edge of their box, for example.

If in doubt, they whack it. The goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, son of the famous Manchester United goalkeeper Peter, kicks long, often, and Vardy plays on the shoulder of the last defender to stretch the field. It’s hardly tiki-taka, but it works.


Sometimes “laughter can be the best medicine, says striker Riyad Mahrez, the Algerian striker, the first African footballer to win the PFA Players’ “Player of the Year” award. He claimed the secret to Leicester’s incredible title charge was that “nobody took us seriously, including ourselves!”

The fun-loving Mahrez, whose off-the-cuff skills have lit up the Premier League all season, says laughter has been behind the club’s amazing rags-to-riches rise to the top. He says mean and moody superstars such as Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic might be “seriously” gifted but they would be even better if they lightened up at times.

Hey, remember always, sweet dreams are made of this. The biggest lesson here: Never ever give up the fight, even as a little red dot. Never stop dreaming. And in whatever you do, like the “Malaysia Boleh!” cheer-slogan, always give it your very best shot!

Leicester says it all, so bravely, yet so simply. They deserve the loudest cheers.

Even former Malaysian coach Datuk M. Karuthu sent me this SMS: “Don’t feel bad, Suresh, I know you are a Spurs fan. But Leicester winning the title shows , character, right attitude and commitment always comes first than high-level technical ability. History has been created by Leicester.”


Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based sports journalist, who supports Tottenham Hotspur

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