The Most Unlikely Champion in Sports History

How a British King from the 15th century helped a soccer team win a title in 2016

In sports, people love a good underdog story. They love it even more if they put money on it, and they love it even more if some distant curse is broken in the process. On Monday the biggest underdog story, perhaps ever, is paying out what is likely the biggest-priced single winner in the history of sports gambling and a man who died in the 1400's is getting some of the credit.

Leicester City has won the 2015-16 English Premier League title. American football fans may be wondering why that’s a big deal, so here’s a little explanation:

Leicester City had never won a top-flight championship in its 132-year history. They make the Chicago Cubs look like the St. Louis Cardinals. Just last year the Foxes were at the bottom of the league and facing relegation to a lower division. In the off-season they signed a new manager, Claudio Ranieri, and all of a sudden they went to the top of the soccer world.

The Foxes are likely the most unlikely champions in the history of English soccer. To start the season the odds against them winning the Premiere League title were 5000-to-1, and that’s where the other part of this story comes in.

William Hill is a sports betting entity. Before the PL season they took 25 bets on Leicester, totaling about £68 ($100 US dollars). Those bets will pay off to the tune of about £350,000 (about $500,000). William Hill says this is the longest longshot that they have ever seen win. The reason for this, of course, can be attributed to a king who died 530 years ago.

The remains of King Richard III had been discovered under a car park in Leister so in March of 2015 the people there gave the former king a proper burial in a cathedral. At the time Leicester City had just six wins and was about to be sent down.

Starting with the game after the ceremony, the Foxes won seven of nine games to stay in the Premier League then went on their year’s storybook title run. The prevailing thought in England is King Richard had either been punishing Leicester for leaving him under a parking lot, or is now rewarding the team and its fans for righting a historic wrong.

The timing is almost too spooky to ignore. Plus, what’s a good underdog story without just a little bit of suspended belief?

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