LEICESTER, May 3 – Ecstatic fans rushed into the streets of Leicester on Monday as the outsiders won the Premier League in a triumph seen as the most astonishing in the history of English football.
Dancing crowds dressed in the team’s blue jerseys hugged each other and chanted songs honouring heroes such as manager Claudio Ranieri and striker Jamie Vardy, linchpins of Leicester City’s first title triumph in its 132-year history.
“There is only one Ranieri,” chanted fans in celebration of the Italian boss.
“This year I got married and had a baby, but this tops it all,” said Steve Robinson, 26.
“It’s going to be a big and long party, because we have waited a long time for this,” added tourist guide Steve Bruce.
Thousands bearing blue and white flags celebrated beside the King Power stadium and the cathedral where the skeleton of Richard III was buried after it was discovered under a carpark in 2012 a fact seen by some to have brought the Midlands city luck.
Fans circled the city centre blaring their car horns, while others warned that European giants such as Barcelona were next in their sights as Leicester prepare to enter the Champions League for the first time.
“We’re coming for you, (Lionel) Messi!” shouted Chris Whiting, 20, in a reference to Barcelona’s star Argentine forward.
At Hogarths pub nearby, fans had cheered on Chelsea to prevent second-placed Tottenham Hotspur getting the win they needed to prolong the title race until Saturday, at least.
After the 2-2 draw confirmed Leicester were champions, supporters jumped in elation and disbelief.
“I’m going to party! I’ve been supporting Leicester since I was 14 years old, can you imagine what this means for me?” said Caroline Wilkins, 60, who added she watched the match with a friend because her husband hates football.
“I feel on top of the world, I feel I’m in heaven!”
Whiting said he had started to fear the title might slip through Leicester’s fingers when Tottenham were two goals up in the first half of the game.
“I still can’t believe it… I started worrying about the next game,” Whiting said.
– ‘This is a dream’ –
Christine Norton, aged in her 60s, left the pub when Spurs scored the second goal but returned when Chelsea managed to equalise.
“I told them: if I leave, they’ll draw,” Norton said. “And here I am, I am really happy, this is a dream.”
The city had been dyed blue in the build up, with one bar selling cappuccinos decorated with Vardy’s face, a restaurant selling fried blue fish, and a supermarket even dying their sausages blue.
Marc Wilks, who was selling T-shirts reading “Champions 2015-2016. Leicester Kings of England” said the party would continue for some time to come.
“It’s been a fantastic day, very good for the business,” Wilks said.
At the start of the season, few believed it was possible for a club representing a city of 330,000 people to beat London’s five Premier League teams and Manchester’s two to the title.
Before the campaign started, bookmakers had offered 5,000-1 against Leicester winning the championship.
But fans got their payback for a lifetime of scorn and taunts by Leicester’s great local rivals, Nottingham Forest, who won the English league once and the European Cup twice in the 1970s but now languish in the second-tier English Football Championship.
Student Karishma Kapoor, 20, was laughing all the way to the bank after betting £2 ($2.93, 2.54 euros) on Leicester winning at the start of the season giving her a payout of £10,000 ($14,650, 12,700 euros).
“We are a lot into football at home. So this summer we were discussing the season ahead in my grandma’s house and we decided to bet one pound each with my auntie,” Kapoor said.
“I would like to save some of it, go on holiday, hopefully and pay for my brother to go on a trip to a Champions League game.”