Underdogged


Our Aspire story takes the weirdest of studies in portraying one of life’s most lessons in perserverance, teamspirit, underdog positivity and hardwork. Most of us can relate to certain instances when lots are drawn and every logical and mathematical postulation and calculation falls into odds for us. Bringing the story home, you sometimes hear terms like “Even if God would come down, you can’t just make it, you can’t pass, you can’t get the contract, no one will marry you”; Yes, those times when we are written off.

Notwithstanding, our references reflects those who decided to thrive above the odds.

Quick history: picture a 330,000 population settlement in the east midlands of England, one of the oldest cities in, occupied by the Roman during the conquest of Southern Britain, and in 1972 served as an immigration destination for Ugandan Asians when Id-Amin gave a 90-day ultimatum for the entire Ugandan community to leave the country; certainly, Leicester has its own share of history.

Our trip is also a stop away from the Barclays Premier League, a football league competition where a number of teams compete for a number of honors, our reference point is however to the team who acquires the highest number of points and thus declared the winner of the League.

Ladies and the other Gentlemen.. Wait.. We are not discussing football.. Hold on a little, We promise to make it worth the reading.

So fast forward to the “end in mind”, 2014-2015 football season had Leicester City Football Club struggling to avoid being kicked out – “relegated” of the league, and one year later, they’ve won the league even before the end of the season which is two games away.

So Act 1: Claudio Ranieri is the 64 year old coach who accepted to coach Leicester City after he was sacked from his former Job, but wasn’t expected to be on the job beyond Christmas 2015. A prolific writer of the UK Newspaper Guardian in his skepticism had said “”If Leicester wanted someone nice, they’ve got him. If they wanted someone to keep them in the Premier League, then they may have gone for the wrong guy”. Key points to Note from Claudio’s success story: He’s noted for his inspirational leadership, and building a winning mentality and a successful Team environment. Ranieri was often drawn to media as he would inspire his players by promising a pizza outing as a reward for a successful outing (which he fulfilled). Until his win with Leicester City, Claudio Ranieri had coached 14 clubs, won nine trophies but never a top-flight league title. Funny bit, the defending champion’s coach had labelled him a loser a decade back, but with this win, he literally took over the crown off his mocker while the same was sacked for under-performance of his team earlier in the year. Ranieri has now become the manager with the fewest days between appointment and winning the title (this record previously held by the same guy who tagged him Loser)

ranieri

Act 2: The #9 shirt striker, Jamie Vardy began playing football before the age of 16 from a number of small teams in English Counties and had remarkable results scoring goals in most of the teams he played for. It’s however funny that Vardy who was hardly reckoned with in the league’s favourite names became a household name quite overnight. The 29 year English has broken and set the record for consecutive goals (11 consecutive games)  and confounded doubters at every turn from the moment he was released by Sheffield Wednesday football club at 16 for being too small. After the rejection at age 16, Vardy had combined working in a carbon-fibre splint factory doing 12 hours shifts with playing for a less-paying club, rushing in from factory shifts to football training. Vardy also says he stood up for a deaf friend who was being mocked and thus for weeks at Age 20, played with an ankle tag following a criminal conviction assault. His initial days in Leicester wasn’t also fun as he struggled getting in playing form and thus had even considered quitting football. Often, Vardy got to training drunk, until the intervention of the VP of the club who helped him turn things around, threatening to run his contract down if he didn’t change his ways.

While his story looked to a few like an overnight celebrity of effortless progression, the reality is one of hard work and a constant battle against rejection and set-backs.

vardy

Act 3: Riyad Mahrez is the African who’s giving the Africans “airtime” in our Leicester’s fairytale story. The French-born Algerian joined the club in 2014 and has put enough goals this season to give the club the requisites they needed to win the league. Mahrez was fifteen when his father died of heart attack and in his reflection he felt he became more serious after this event as he wanted more in his life. Often overlooked by teams due to his slender build, Mahrez developed enough football skills to bring him enough attention by some clubs, and Leicester’s city club scout who was drawn to his skills while on his scout for another player entirely. So the twist the story, just before joining Leicester city, Mahrez hadnt’t heard of the club and thought it was a rugby club. Help us celebrate the first African to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award  and with Leicester city as champions, the first Algerian to win a premier league award.

mahrez

We certainly can’t take it away from the positive desperation expressed in the play style of the rest of the team: Team Captain Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Danny Drinkwater, Goal Keeper Kasper Schmeichel, Shinji Okazaki, Leonardo Ulloa, Ghanian Jeffrey Schlupp, N’Golo Kanté and every other player who contributed to their season win. Ask the football fanatics, none of these players were ever any of the popular names nor on the highlights before now, but have heroically played their way to stardom. In CNN’s words, “it is the collective spirit of this unbreakable band of brothers which has endured”

Leicester’s win has also cascaded up a positive global impact having features and making headlines on CNN, NewYork Times and other “storyboards”. Two days after Mahrez bagged his award, the president of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, issued a statement on TV congratulating and appreciating him for inspiring children and making the country proud. The club nicknamed the “Siamese Foxes” by their Thailand lovers due to the Club’s Thai Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has also thrown the nation in a spur. Rumours have it that the Thai National team now believe they can qualify for the world-cup given Leicester’s win and might be requiring some coaches from the club to assist them with training. The club with this prestigious win stands to earn 150 million pounds comprising Premier League prize money, Champions League participation cash and other revenues from ticket and hospitality sales.

leicester  leicester2

So by now, I’m very sure you’ve caught the moral of the story: If Leicester can do it, so can you. Decide to live above the impediments precluding your way to the top, be “intentional” in your acts to overcome your excuses. In Cobhams’ words taken from his Tedx Euston speech “by excusing failure, and blaming it on some systematic flaw, we miss the opportunity to scale through those seemingly insurmountable obstacles. To elevate ourselves and elevate others”.

So what else.. Just Do It!

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