[OP-ED]: The Cinderella story continues
Once upon a time there was a humble club located in the center of England that, despite having more than 100 years of history, lived poorly in the Football League Championship, fighting more to not drop to a lower division than to reach the dream Premier League.
Anyway, in the 2013-2014 season the team got into a winning streak and claimed the championship, earning its right to participate in the Premiership. Things were not easy at the beginning in England’s soccer elite, where Leicester City had to battle to finish 14th in the table to assure playing one more year against powerhouses like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool…
But on a given day, to be exact on July the 13th of 2015, veteran Italian manager Claudio Ranieri joined the ancient club. With his magic wand, he got players believing and convinced they could match up with anyone. Yes, Ranieri turned a pumpkin mentality into a carriage one and the team started flying. The best transformation story was the one performed on striker Jamie Vardy, who went from scoring five goals in his first Premier League season to recording 24 in the second one, being selected to play for England’s National Team.
And Leicester took off!
Nobody could believe what was happening. First in England, then in Europe and later in the whole world, the small squad shocked everybody. The Foxes got to the top of the table. Everybody tried to predict when they were going to be caught, but they were not. They kept winning games until claiming the Premier League championship in a marvelous season that gave many of our faith in soccer back. Leicester’s run proved that these types of stories can still happen in today’s fast-pace planet.
The story did no end with the English soccer title. Skeptical people doubted on Leicester’s chances in the Champions League, but the small club kept answering. The effort has affected the results achieved by the Foxes in the Premiership, where they currently rank 15th. Anyway, in the Champions League they qualified amongst the continent’s top 16 teams gaining 13 of 18 points in the group stage.
Like every story, things got really complicated. Bad local results and a tough defeat at Seville, 2-1, in the first leg of the round of 16 ended up with Ranieri being fired. Anyway, Leicester found the route to register another heroic deed, beating the Spanish team, 2-0 in England to advance to the following round thanks to a penalty kick saved by Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
After the draw, Leicester will face Atlético Madrid in the quarterfinals. Of course the Spaniards are favorite, but Simeone and company should not get overconfident. Until it is defeated in the Champions League, the story of this small English club, a true Cinderella of European soccer, will continue.