The world of sport has been truly blessed in the year of 2016, I don’t think anyone can argue that. But more importantly the game of soccer, the Beautiful Game if you will, has been completely transformed. Just like 2010 gave us tiki-taka, 2016 has given us hope. Whether you’re a player or a fan, the stories of this year have given us reason to believe! The question is, who is more of a cinderella story: Iceland or Leicester City?
The entire country of Iceland has a booming population of 332,000 (the size of Leicester), and by booming I am referring to the overwhelming list of active volcanoes on the island. The smallest state in the U.S., Rhode Island, has more registered footballers than the entire country. Their coach, Herman Hreidarsson, is a dentist. Maybe the best day in Iceland football history prior to 2016 is when Gudjohnson was signed to Barcelona. These facts clearly state the simple truth that going into the qualifiers for the 2016 Euros, Iceland were respected by no team. Yet time and time again, they shocked the world. Beating powerhouse Netherlands twice in qualifying to take their spot in the big dance, frustrating the eventual champions enough for a draw, pulling out a stoppage-time game winner against Austria to book their ticket to Nice. Then with 10% of the entire country inside the stadium and the rest watching in Reykjavik, they beat England on June 27; a new national holiday. Iceland weren’t just the underdog of the tournament, they were flat out the least talented 23-man roster in France this summer, yet they had something the big boys didn’t.
To justify just how remarkable Leicesters’ historic season actually was is almost impossible, mainly because what they achieved was just the same. To put it in perspective, Leicester City’s entire playing staff was worth £54 million, compared to Manchester City’s net worth of £411 million including their most expensive player Kevin De Bruyne at £58m. The 5,000 to 1 odds were given to Leicester to win the league, that’s the same odds as a 16 seed winning March Madness. Fact: A 16 seed has never made it past the first round! Truly this is the tallest feat ever in sports history. Movies will be made about the heroes of Leicester, the underdogs of the soccer world, coming from the depths of the Championship to raise the trophy in the Premier League.
Both Iceland and Leicester City had more heart, passion, togetherness and the will to win than their respective opponents, but most importantly these guys were fearless. Fearless to a point where they had absolutely nothing to lose, and as a result they are now heroes to the home of the now infamous ‘Thunderclap’ and ‘Foxes’.
The year 2016 has given this sport new life. It has shown kids that absolutely anything is possible. That with enough desire you can be the best, you can be a cinderella, and maybe one day have the whole world call you a legend; Why not?
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