Underdogs' triumph spicing up football [Part 1]

As the sage once put it, the only constants in life are change and taxes. The spectra of the underdog has never hang ever so close as to spook out the big guns as it has this year.

Indeed, bigger teams have been forced to constantly look over their shoulders more this year than any other year. Still, upsets galore have been the order of the day. It is as if both the gods of football and goddess of luck have connived to embarrass the bigger sides.

The ball has been having a more awkward bounce than the famed ‘Jabulani’ used for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It is rumored that the Jabulani was not the creation of traditional sports ball makers Adidas, Nike or Puma but the handiwork of a famed South African ‘Sangoma’ to facilitate their cause.

As such, the apparent metaphysical impact of its bounce left many goal keepers in a fix trying to explain how the ball went in. The opening goal scored for that tournament by one Siphiwe Tshabalala occasioning one of the most passionate celebratory dances in football history was revered as work of art by African media but in foreign media particularly Mexican castigated as the product of a dark art. 

The year that is..

Fast forward 2016 and similar bounces are creating casualties left right and centre. The slip by Captain Fantastic Stevie G and eventual surrender by Liverpool in 2014 had been put down as one of the most cataclysmic occurrences by a team on course to a title. However, horror shows may have been enacted on the football pitch this year; albeit, for the big teams compared to their less illustrious and more shoe-string funded rivals.

The first in this sequence is Leicester City. A team that seemed more at home fighting relegation produced the ultimate ‘Cinderella clinches prince charming’ headline after winning the English Premier League. Regarded as the backwater of the EPL, a team that had never lifted the title and whose closest dance with fortune was when they finished 2nd in the Old First Division way back in 1929.

The victory was in no small part to the tinker-man; Claudio Ranieri whose best performance was with Chelsea in 2004 when he led them to second behind ‘Les Invincibles’ of Arsene Wenger. This was a man who had seemingly been consigned to the garbage bin of football folklore after an ill-fated Euro 16 qualification campaign with Greece that brought performances not limited to but inclusive of a defeat by Faroe Islands a team composed mainly of College boys and recreational footballers.


When he left that post and Leicester seemed to be clasping to him many may have felt this was just going to be the usual below par season under the tutelage of a failure. His first victories seemed to be flukes but when big guns begun falling many sat up to take notice. When the first round of 19 matches ended with only one defeat many began dreaming. Not just Ranieri but most of the team was composed of journey men from the more illustrious sides, lower division hustlers and a few novices.

In this era of Petro dollars, super rich club owners bank rolling similarly loaded teams that are run as conglomerates, lubricated by lucrative TV deals, a story like impecunious Leicester’s seemed most unlikely. It was like the biblical story of the Maccabee Israelites who against all odds and guided by an unseen commander defeated the powerful King Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria and his colossal army.

Who would have said that by mid-April Leicester city and Tottenham Hotspurs would’ve confirmed their positions in next season’s Champions League with matches in hand? Tottenham’s equal meteoric rise is cruelly only marred by the fact that they missed out on the league title thanks to the brilliance of the aforementioned opponents. Installed at 5000/1 by the bookies to win the league at the start of last season, guess who the joke is on now?

Dennis Mukoya is a soccer enthusiast and a thinker of new solutions.