Jamie Vardy controls the ball against Rubén Dias this Saturday at King Power Stadium.TIM KEETON / AFP
Seen from London, Leicester is a rather nondescript city in the geographical center of England, crossed by the two major rail and car lines that cross the country from North to South and from East to West. For locals, it is the capital of the East Middlands, the region that has given the world Stilton’s fabulous blue cheeses, the birthplace of Thomas Cook (the man who invented package tours), a two-thousand-year-old city in which the King Richard III spent his last night before dying at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 (his remains were found in 2012 during construction work in the city center).
It is also the city of Walker chips, the one with the most traffic lights in England, cradle of the movement in favor of women’s right to vote, with a long tradition of sheltering dissidents and with such racial diversity that it hosts the largest Hindu festival Diwali celebrated outside of India.
Leicester prospered in the 19th century thanks to the Grand Union Canal that connects it with London to the South and Birmingham (1.1 million inhabitants) to the West and was able to weave a diversified economy, although based, above all, on textiles, which made it possible to overcome the abrupt decline of the mining towns or heavy industries in the North of England in the second half of the 20th century.
Despite these virtues, it was ranked 101st in a list of quality of life in 138 British cities drawn up in the already somewhat distant 2015. There are more recent misfortunes, such as the appalling working conditions of its textile workshops, considered the focus which led to a total closure of the city last summer due to covid-19.
But none of that can obscure the fact that, above all else, Leicester has its place in history as the birthplace of the English language. It was there, more than 1,000 years ago, where the Viking and Anglo-Saxon warriors overcame their differences and began to live together, unifying their customs and also their languages, giving way to modern English.
Something similar happens in the world of football. Leicester City FC is also nondescript, but happy: always in the first or second division (except in the recent 2008-09 season, when they played at the third level), they have been second champions seven times. But, like the city, it can boast of a monumental feat: its unexpected triumph in the Premier of the 2015-16 season, with Claudio Ranieri on the bench and hitherto unknown players such as Riyad Mahrez (now at Manchester City), Jamie Vardy (loyal to Leicester) or N’Golo Kanté (who went whistling to Chelsea).
That triumph for Leicester City is only comparable to the previous feat of its great rival, Nottingham Forest, who won the league of the 1977-78 season the year after being promoted from Second (and then the European Cup twice in a row). There are two ways to measure this football cataclysm. One, the nervous breakdown in the bookmakers that at the beginning of the season had promised payments of 5,000 pounds to 1 if Leicester won the Premier. Another, to see Gary Lineker fulfill his promise to present his BBC program in his underwear. The son of Leicester, Lineker worked at his parents’ fruit stand in the city market before succeeding as a footballer for Leicester, Barça, Tottenham and England.
Against the prognosis of many, Leicester City remains at the top of the table. Last year he lost in the last days a place in the Champions League. This year, that is his goal again. Manchester City gave him a warning on Saturday (they won 2-0 at King Power Stadium), but with Brendan Rodgers on the bench and Vardy still on the pitch, the Foxes they aspire to once again rub shoulders with the European elite.
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