By now, pretty much everything that can be said about Leicester City’s premier league victory has been said. It has been described as the greatest underdog story in sport, a work of art and a big fat middle finger to the financial elitism of English football. Whilst this is all true, I believe there is a much broader symbolic meaning to all of it. Leicester City are the living embodiment of optimism in the face of austerity Britain, a symbol of hope for those who don’t have a big bank balance to rely upon, an exquisite selection of misfits and underachievers uniting to overcome the financial giants that had dicked on them for so long.
Leicester began the season embroiled in the midst of a seemingly catastrophic controversy with a new manager who had a proven track record of fucking up when it mattered most. Many considered Ranieri’s appointment to be the nail in the coffin for their season and as such they written off as relegation favourites but y’all knew that already. Throughout the campaign they were patronised by the entire footballing establishment who claimed that they would falter by the end of the season but their sheer belief and determination allowed them to carry on. What Leicester represent is not individual brilliance, but the importance of the team. They managed to create a system utilising everyone’s talents that, to use an old cliché, proved that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Despite this, there are two particular figures in the Leicester team that I would like to focus on as they I feel that they capture the spirit of this monumental achievement in a political context.
Perhaps the best place to start is with the heart and soul of Leicester City, the one and only Jamie Vardy. It is hard to imagine, now that he is being heralded as a national hero, that this is a man who once had to play with an ankle tag after being convicted of assault. It is because of this however that Vardy represents redemption and reform, leading the front line like a spiky haired Christ. He serves as a shining reminder that there is not simply one path to success and in the process has highlighted the deficiencies in the current system. Vardy, like most people, is a man who has made mistakes in the past and his success shows that very often the people we write off and ignore based on the mistakes they have made can have so much more to give. Even though it’s only football, it gives us an insight into how we can treat those that society has left behind in the same way that Vardy was left behind by the footballing establishment. He proves that a former criminal does not have to be defined by their record and that maybe by focusing on reform rather than scorn we can create a system that aids personal development rather than simply ostracising its casualties.
Over the course of 2015 and 2016, a lot has been said about Muslims crossing the English Channel, usually as a part of fear mongering campaigns that seek to demonise those in need of help.In the case of Riyad Mahrez however, we have seen the opposite of this. Growing up in a tough suburb of Paris to Algerian parents Mahrez’s story seems, to the uneducated amongst us, not too dissimilar to that of some other well-known less savoury characters in the world. At a time where xenophobia is on the rise again, particularly directed towards Muslims, Mahrez’s story shows that Muslims in Europe have so much more to give than simply fulfilling abhorrent stereotypes. He has been able to establish himself as a positive role model for young Muslims in Britain and along with the recent election of Sadiq Kahn as London mayor, it seems as though finally we are moving towards a more accepting and open society without the radical undertaking of Sharia law as so many far-right knuckleheads would have you believe.
Leicester’s unbelievable triumph is still sinking for most of us, even the experts can’t tell us how they did it but surely this gives us all some hope. They are a fantastic example of passion and determination uniting the country to overcome the rigid stratification of English football, a big fuck you to the antiquated class dynamics and hope for all of us that no matter how bad things may seem, there’s always hope. Put it this way; if Leicester an win the league then anything is possible.