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The songs and chants tell their own story. “Barcelona, we’re coming for you”; “Four-nil to the one-man team”; “Ranieri, ooooh. Ranieri, ooooh. He came from Italy, to manage the City” (to the tune of ‘Volare’).
They are, of course, the words of the adoring Leicester City football fans as the team known as the Foxes continue their mad, wonderful, impossible fox trot cum gallop towards the English Premier League title.
I was privileged to be at the King Power Stadium yesterday (the club is owned by Thai travel retailer King Power International Group; Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is the club’s Chairman and Senior Executive Vice President Susan Whelan its CEO) on an occasion as thrilling, joyful and exuberant as only great sport can be.
[Click on the icon to hear Volare sung like you’ve never heard it before]
For the record, the Foxes thumped Swansea City 4-0 (the “one man team” reference above is to the absence of star striker Jamie Vardy, which many pundits said would render the Foxes toothless – instead they showed the fangs, menace and sympathy of a sabre-toothed tiger) and are now only five points away from the most unlikely sporting triumph in history. Well, let’s qualify only. Two of their three remaining games are against powerhouses Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively, both away. And the one team that can still overtake them, Tottenham Hotspur, is tearing up behind like a Japanese bullet train. There’s still much to do.
I lunched before the game with Susan Whelan and her husband Robbie Gill (owner of The Design Solution). They were calm but Susan a little quieter than usual. The enormity of the moment and the potential achievement has dawned. As The Guardian’s Amy Lawrence wrote so perfectly about the Foxe’s charismatic, eccentric, lovable, brilliant Italian manager: “Claudio Ranieri strolled on to the pitch at the end of this joyous whirlwind to hear his name coursing down from a band of elated and appreciative fans. This Italian gentleman of football shook his fists into the Leicestershire air. A life in football boils down to this.
“Close. Closer. So close now. Expectancy has become an impulse the crowd feel able to cherish. The mood was remarkable. Not a flicker of anxiety, only radiant confidence. The rock-and-roll noise of the King Power Stadium cranked up a notch, even by this season’s standards. They sang of waiting for Tottenham, of coming for Barcelona. The effervescent mood is something to behold.”
It sure is. As Claudio told a reporter after the match: “We play with our heart and it’s difficult to beat those who play with heart and soul.”
Difficult? So far it’s nearly impossible. Ok then, altogether now… “Ranieri, ooooh. Ranieri, ooooh. He came from Italy, to manage the City!”
[“Barcelona, we’re coming for you…”]