Stând fără vreun scop precis pe Facebook, am dat astăzi peste articolul acesta, scris chiar de Claudio Ranieri. Și mă bucur nespus.
Pentru că omul acesta, Claudio Ranieri, e pe cale să reușească ceva de domeniul fanasticului la Leicester City. Mai sunt șase etape în Premier League, campionatul rege al echipelor de club din întreaga lume.
Echipa asta, încropită din jucători care nu și-au găsit locul la nume mai mari, dar în care s-a investit cu încredere și iubire, are un avans de șapte puncte în fruntea clasamentului. Matematic, patru victorii le asigură un titlu care pentru mine s-ar clasa pe locul întâi într-un clasament cu cele mai mari surprize pe care le-am văzut în fotbalul inter-cluburi.
Povestea asta e menită pentru filmele americane. Dar nu se întâmplă acolo. Ea e reală, și se întâmplă pe una dintre cele mai mari, mai impunătoare și mai grele scene din fotbal.
Am să copiez câteva pasaje aici. Așa, pentru a le ține minte peste ani.
Forty points. That was the goal. That was the total we needed to stay in the first division, to give our fans another season of Premier League football. Back then, I did not dream that I would open the paper on April 4 and see Leicester City at the top of the table with 69 points. Last year on this same day, the club was at the bottom of the table.
Jamie Vardy, for example. This is not a footballer. This is a fantastic horse. He has a need to be free out there on the pitch. I say to him, “You are free to move however you want, but you must help us when we lose the ball. That’s all I ask of you. If you start to press the opposition, all of your teammates will follow you.”
Before we played our first match of the season, I told the players, “I want you to play for your teammates. We are a little team, so we have to fight with all our heart, with all our soul. I don’t care the name of the opponent. All I want is for you to fight. If they are better than us, Okay, congratulations. But they have to show us they are better.”
We started the season very well. But our goal, I repeat, was to save the club from relegation. The first nine games, we were winning, but we were giving up many goals. We had to score two or three goals to win every game. It concerned me very much. Before every game, I said, “Come on boys, come on. Clean sheet today.” No clean sheet. I tried every motivation. So finally, before the game against Crystal Palace, I said, “Come on boys, come on. I offer you a pizza if you get a clean sheet.” Of course, my players made a clean sheet against Crystal Palace. One-nil.
So I stood by our deal and took my players to Peter Pizzeria in Leicester City Square. But I had a surprise for them when we got there. I said, “You have to work for everything. You work for your pizza, too. We will make our own.” So we went into the kitchen with the dough and the cheese and the sauce. We tossed our own pies. It was very good, too. I enjoyed many slices. What can I say? I’m an Italian man. I love my pizza and my pasta. Now, we make a lot of clean sheets. A dozen clean sheets after the pizza, in fact. I think this is no coincidence.
We have six games remaining, and we must continue fighting with our heart and our soul. This is a small club that is showing the world what can be achieved through spirit and determination. Twenty-six players. Twenty-six different brains. But one heart.
No matter what happens to end this season, I think our story is important for all football fans around the world. It gives hope to all the young players out there who have been told they are not good enough.