Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 9th 2016 Contents LONDON---The wealth of elite clubs
and financial restrictions on upstarts
were thought to be locking in the
established order in English soccer
and suppressing ambition.
Just gatecrashing the Premier League s
top-four to gain access to Champions
League riches seemed an impossible feat
for aspirational sides.
But a kaleidoscope has shaken the
world s richest football competition in
a season, defying not only the book-
makers but logic as well.
After 25 games it still seems unfath-
omable to have to delve into the lower
reaches of the standings to find Chelsea
in 13th place from where the defending
champions are struggling to rise.
But it is the continued presence of
Leicester at the summit to be cherished.
With predictable leaders in Spain, Ger-
many and France, Leicester is reinforcing
the Premier League s status as the
world s most engrossing and competitive
Leicester responds to each prediction
that its bubble will burst by producing
results like Saturday: Stunning Man-
chester City 3-1 and sending the 2012
and 2014 champions sliding to fourth.
Leicester winning the top flight for
the first time in May would be the great-
est title triumph in English football his-
tory. The Foxes started the season as
5,000-1 title no-hopers but are now 7-
4 favourites with some bookmakers.
"It s either this year or never," manager
Claudio Ranieri has told his players.
Adding to the state of flux in England
is Tottenham occupying second place
five points behind Leicester---its highest
position at this stage of the season for
31 years. Unlike Leicester, the north Lon-
don club has been champion of England,
though only in 1951 and 1961.
There has been a surprise champion
before from the east Midlands. Not-
tingham Forest was promoted to the
top flight and instantly won the 1978
title. But that was in an era when
the disparities are not as vast as cur-
With a team that cost around $30
million, Leicester beat a Man City lineup
on Saturday that cost more than 10
times that to assemble. Leicester gen-
erated around $150 million in revenue
last season while City made more than
The richest team in England is Man-
chester United. Despite vast spending
on players and a 2014-15 turnover of
around $580 million, United is fifth in
the standings, a dozen points behind
Leicester with 13 games to go.
At this stage last season Leicester was
rock bottom. Only in April did Leicester
start its rise out of the relegation zone,
although manager Nigel Pearson was
still fired and the less temperamental
Ranieri was brought in.
The brains behind the molding of the
team is Steve Walsh, the former Leicester
player turned head of recruitment and
assistant manager, who unearthed gems
like Jamie Vardy.
The striker was a one-million-pound
gamble when he was plucky from non-
league obscurity in 2012. Vardy has
proved to be a bargain buy with a league-
leading 18 goals. Riyad Mahrez has shared
the plaudits as the Algeria midfielder
has unsettled defenses with his searing
pace while also contributing 14 league
But it s an all-round team effort,
exemplified by a Barcelona-esque slick
passing sequence in the 2-0 win over
Liverpool last week. The defensive mid-
field shield, Danny Drinkwater, and goal-
keeper Kasper Schmeichel have been
integral to Leicester conceding only twice
in seven league games.
All-round energy and pace in the cen-
tral England team has seen teams as
mighty as Man City crumble.
"Everyone feels they are participating,
so playing badly means betraying the
others," Ranieri told Italian newspaper
Corriere della Sera in a weekend inter-
"I never once had to tell someone off
for being lazy."
Leicester s Thai owners were dis-
missed as barmy for hiring Ranieri in
July. The Italian had been away from
the Premier League for 11 years since
being jettisoned by Chelsea to make way
for Jose Mourinho. And he had been
out of work for more than a year after
being fired by Greece during a woeful
start by a top-ranked team in the eas-
iest-ever European Championship qual-
But from being a figure of fun and
favorite to be sacked this season, Ranieri
is flavor of the month again.
How has he achieved it?
One of the first tasks for the manager
known at Chelsea as the "Tinkerman"
for his constant changes to the lineup
was winning over wary Leicester play-
"I realised they were afraid of Italian
tactical approaches," Ranieri recalled.
"So I told the players that I trusted
them and would speak very little of tac-
tics. It was important to me that they
all ran hard."
Beat third-place Arsenal on Sunday
and Leicester will be closer to handing
Ranieri the most satisfying end to the
season in May: Lifting the trophy at his
former Chelsea home.
"I always tell my players to find the
fire within themselves," Ranieri said. "A
chance like this will never come round
again. Seek that fire, don t be ashamed
of it." (AP)
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
FIFA Presidential Candidate Gianni
Infantino speaks during an interview
with The Associated Press after he
unveiled his 90 day plan that he will
implement if he is elected FIFA
President. AP PHOTO
PARIS---San Antonio Spurs
point guard Tony Parker says he
has reached an understanding
with his pregnant wife that will
allow him to take part in
France s Olympic qualifying
tournament this summer.
Parker had raised the possibility
of missing the tournament from
July 4-10 and the Olympics---if
France qualified---because of the
expected birth of his second son
But Parker told L Equipe newspa-
per Monday that he will be available
for both events, saying: "I will be at
the Olympics if we qualify."
Parker says his wife is making a
"big sacrifice" by letting him go and
has warned him he "should better
bring a medal back home."
The Olympic basketball tourna-
ment in Rio de Janeiro will be held
from August 6-21. (AP)
Parker to play with France despite wife's pregnancy
It's now or never for Leicester
in this odds-defying season
MONROVIA, Liberia---The outspoken
head of the Liberia Football Associ-
ation says at least 26 African countries
will defy their confederation and not
vote for Sheikh Salman of Bahrain in
the FIFA presidential election.
Salman, the Asian Football Confed-
eration president, was publicly endorsed
by the Confederation of African Football
on Friday, a major boost to his election
chances. CAF urged its 54 member
countries to vote for the Bahraini royal.
But Liberia FA President Musa Bility,
who failed an integrity check to stand
in the February 26 election, says he has
spoken to representatives of nearly half
of CAF s members, and they won t back
Bility says Liberia will vote for Prince
Ali of Jordan to succeed Sepp Blatter.
Meanwhile, six Central European fed-
erations confirmed their support for
Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary,
Liechtenstein, Poland, and Slovakia will
vote for the UEFA secretary general,
according to Austria federation president
"Our candidate is Gianni Infantino.
That s obvious. We discussed it exten-
sively today," Windtner said following
an annual meeting of the six federa-
Windtner called on all European fed-
erations to back Infantino in the five-
"Fact is that in the past UEFA has
not always acted as a unity, has acted
without a clear strategy," Windtner said.
"So it will be necessary to act together
toward the FIFA congress as there are
some very respectable other candidates
from other confederations."
In January, UEFA gave strong but not
total support for its secretary general s
Infantino can count on a big majority
of the 53 European federations for FIFA
votes, having served as their top admin-
istrator since 2009.
However, Malta has said it will vote
for Prince Ali, who got votes from across
Europe when he lost to Blatter 133-73
in May, and other UEFA members have
publicly expressed doubts about Infan-
The two other candidates are former
FIFA official Jerome Champagne of
France, and South African businessman
The six federations have not yet dis-
cussed which candidate would be their
second preference if Infantino didn t
make it beyond the first round of vot-
ing.A two-thirds majority of eligible voters
is required to win in the first round, and
a simple majority will clinch the pres-
idency in subsequent rounds.
Hungary federation president Sandor
Csanyi, a UEFA executive committee
member, said he was "sure that during
the first round Gianni will be among
the ones who got the most votes so
Gianni will be in the second round."
Bility: 26 African nations won't support Salman in FIFA vote
T&T s defender
has signed for Major
League Soccer club
Colorado Rapids from
Antigua GFC, ahead of
the new season which
kicks off next month
"That door is com-
pletely shut. Kevin
will not be picked.
That s from me."
overs captain EOIN
to British newspaper
The Daily Mail from
England s tour of
(Ext: 2069, 2071,
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