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Leicester City's African delight: Algiers to Accra en route to Bangkok

Leicester City's African delight: Algiers to Accra en route to Bangkok


“And they lived happy ever after,” that’s how stories like that of Leicester City in the English Premier League should ordinarily end.

But for Italian Ranieri, the Thai club owners, their uncompromising Jamaican skipper, the die-in-the-wool Leicester fans and all other nationals who helped piece together not just a historic but fairytale triumph, the victory is still fresh, even though the journey has just began.

But for us at Africanews, the African involvement is up for review in this piece as we peep through the victory that would for years to come, be spoken of so fondly in not just football but general sport circles.

Dream come true!! A Day I will never forget

Mahrez magic

Riyad Mahrez, an Algerian midfielder clearly scored an “A” in his displays in Leicester’s title push. So crucial was Mahrez to the chase that his fellow professionals voted him Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player’s Player of the Year for 2015/2016.

This makes him the first African to win the coveted prize, a prize that eluded amongst others Ghana’s Michael Essien, Ivorians Kolo and Yaya Toure as well as Didier Drogba, Nigeria’s Nwanko Kanu and Togo’s Emmanuel Adebayor, all of who were playing in top sides at the peak of their game.

Mahrez would hardly convert a handful of fans to Leicester by his displays, at best United, Arsenal and Liverpool fans (known to flood the EPL African fanbase) would rather have their club jerseys and charitably emboss a Mahrez behind it.

According to the club’s website, Mahrez, described as “a tricky winger with an eye for goal,” had this as his league record with a game to end the season: 38 games, 18 goals with 11 assists.

Ghana and the unknown Leicester

South of the Sahara, Leicester had two sons of the continent in their squad. Both from Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. Better still, the Ghana of Abedi Pele, Tony Yeboah, Michael Essien and Asamoah Gyan.

After Leicester escaped relegation last season, Ghanaian soccer fans were more focused on the Ayew brothers who had both moved to England from France in the same transfer window – Dede to Swansea and Jordan to Aston Villa.

Little attention was given to Jeffery Schlupp even though he was a regular in the Black Stars defense line. His stats according to leicestercity.com (also with a game to end of season) are as follows: One goal in 25 appearances and two assists.

And as if lifting the EPL trophy was not enough, the Ghanaian international was also voted by the club as their best young player of the season following his displays throughout the season.

Daniel Amar…what? Well, that’d be the most likely response if an ordinary Ghanaian football lover was asked about Leicester’s third African player and the youngest in terms of how long he’s been with the club.

Amartey, the youngest of the African contingent, joined the King Power stadium project from FC Copenhagen five months ago and has won a Premier League title after five appearances with four as a substitute and no goal yet..

Maybe not as key as a Mahrez, a Vardy, Huth or Schemichael but a deserved member of a historic team as he expresses in a twitter post.

Leicester won the league but would hardly win any fans

In Bangkok, the King Power offices matched the ambiance proper at Kings Power stadium where Leicester emphatically thumped Everton before being handed the EPL trophy.

The celebrations were in line. The club pitched at 5000 – 1 in the odds had against same odds, prevailed over richer, more popular peers like Manchester City and United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham hotspurs.

Meanwhile in Egypt a former Spurs player Mido had to shave off his hair on Live TV after Leicester won the title. He had dared to dare the “foxes”.

For now though, all eyes turn to the “underwear presenter,” former Leicester player and now soccer pundit Gary Linekar. He also dared Ranieri’s charges on twitter and now he has to pay the price.

The Leicester fan base would more often pop up with an “against” agenda between supporters of top EPL sides in Africa. But the continent can look back on the just ended season and say that it contributed its quota to the Leicester dream.

Next season as usual is a different ball game but Leicester won’t refuse to dream as much as the other competitors wouldn’t diffuse in “sleep” (whatever that means)

Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa
Africanews web journalist, Congo Pointe-Noire