A city gripped by football fever

30 Apr

Leicester City fans at the King PowerImage copyright

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Leicester City can clinch the Premier League title with a win against Manchester United at Old Trafford

Leicester City are on the brink of pulling off one of sport’s greatest fairytales – even the bookies thought there was more chance of finding the Loch Ness Monster than the Foxes winning the Premier League. But what impact have they had on the people of the city?

Ash Patel, 40, had been a lifelong Liverpool fan until Leicester City were promoted to the Premier League.

The father-of-two from Leicester is now a season ticket holder at the King Power Stadium and regularly takes his sons, who were previously Chelsea fans, to the games.

“When I was younger all my friends supported the bigger teams,” he told BBC Asian Network.

“I didn’t think about supporting my own city because we wanted to watch the bigger players and it was all about winning matches.

“I never saw Leicester getting there to the top.”

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Ash Patel

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Ash Patel switched from his beloved Liverpool FC to support his home team, Leicester City

On Friday, Leicester was turned royal blue as workplaces and schools encouraged everyone to get behind the team by donning the club’s colours.

As #backingtheblues began trending on Twitter shop windows were dressed in blue, bars created blue cocktails and a butchers at Leicester Market was selling limited edition blue sausages.

One coffee shop even created a special Vardyccino – with the chocolate on top supposed to look like the team’s striker Jamie Vardy – while someone modified a photo of King Richard III, whose remains were found beneath a city centre car park, in a Foxes kit.

But the excitement is not just limited to Leicester City supporters.

The city’s elation has also gripped people who did not previously like the sport.

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The Foxes’ title bid has captured the imagination of the whole the city – in some unique ways

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National Portrai Gallery / University of Leicester

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Even King Richard III whose remains were found buried in Leicester has been showing his support for the team

Nicola Butler, 33, from Ratby, Leicestershire, admits she was never a football fan until the start of this season.

“I have a few friends who are die hard [Leicester City] fans and they would talk to me about it.

“And it’s kind of got everyone else excited about it too.”

On Friday the mum-of-two joined her colleagues at the University of Leicester and a large majority of the city dressed in blue.

“When you meet people excited by it, you can’t help but get gripped by it as well.

“I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been caught up in this story. Even my granddad, who lives near Liverpool, wants Leicester to win.

“Whatever happens everyone really just can’t believe we have come this far.”

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Nicola Butler

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Nicola Butler took her dad Mike, who usually supports Liverpool and Coventry City, to the game against Swansea and says she has become hooked

As a treat for her dad’s 60th birthday, Mrs Butler bought tickets to her first ever football game to watch Leicester play Swansea City last weekend.

“It was brilliant. The atmosphere was amazing,” she said.

But despite the heady atmosphere in the city, there are still some who are refusing to be swept up in the excitement.

Lee Pickering, who lives in the city, says he will probably be watching the Grand Prix instead of Leicester’s game against Manchester United on Sunday.

“It’ll do nothing (for the city),” he says. “Those that like football will enjoy it because they’ll get to see bigger teams come down here but those that don’t like football will be like ‘so what’. It won’t make any difference at all.”

It seems people like him are in the minority though.

Harinder Singh, born and brought up in India, only caught the Leicester bug during the Foxes’ great escape from relegation at the end of last season.

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Ian Davis / Leicester City Council

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The city’s town hall has been lit up blue at night in support of the team

“As you know in India, we are crazy about cricket and hockey, but when I came over to this country, football is the main sport,” he said.

“I started watching football but only the internationals when England were playing, and I wasn’t really interested in backing any club side until I moved to Leicester.

“I’m amazed to see how this team has dug itself out of a hole having almost been relegated last year.

“Since then, I’ve been following them and it’s completely amazing what these guys have done.”

Whatever the outcome of Leicester City’s title race, there is no doubt it has united the city.

And while there are still some people who will be happy to hear the back of the team winning the league, the team’s accomplishments this seasons will be talked about by for many years to come.


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