SPORTS

The <i>Other</i> Football: Leicester City – the greatest sporting story ever. Period.

Crowds congregate as the Leicester City team bus arrives  at San Carlo Pizzeria for a celebratory lunch in Leicester, England Tuesday May 3, 2016. Leicester  clinched the most improbable title of the Premier League era when second-place Tottenham was held to a 2-2 draw at Chelsea on Monday night.  (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)  UNITED KINGDOM OUT  NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

Crowds congregate as the Leicester City team bus arrives at San Carlo Pizzeria for a celebratory lunch in Leicester, England Tuesday May 3, 2016. Leicester clinched the most improbable title of the Premier League era when second-place Tottenham was held to a 2-2 draw at Chelsea on Monday night. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

I dare anyone to tell me otherwise.

Leicester City’s winning of the Premier League is without doubt the greatest sporting achievement ever by a team of mostly journeymen players costing tens of millions less than the bigger, more glamorous clubs of English soccer.

This column has been keeping a watchful eye – even a hopeful eye – that this underdog story which has had fans from all over the world hoping that the team from the English Midlands could show all players and teams that the impossible is truly possible.

The world's best soccer league had been in danger of becoming like Spain’s La Liga or the French or Italian leagues where only two or three teams win the title. Always.

No way. Not now.

The 5,000-1 outsiders have done it, under the watchful guidance of the Italian coach, Claudio Ranieri, a man who never won a title while coaching and will now get to the play with the European giants in next season’s Champions League.

An astounding feat, when one considers that Leicester nearly went down last season.

Still, the team is no pauper. To compete in modern-day soccer a club needs millions upon millions to even survive. Owned by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, an ambitious billionaire from Thailand – where, by the way, one Buddhist monk actually predicted that the team would win, see From the Wires below – and one can only hope he continues to invest in his team's future.

Most sports journalists wrote his team off for another battle of relegation this season. ‎ Srivaddhanaprabha promised fans that they’d be playing Champions League or Europa Cup soccer within three years of his leadership. What they got, nobody could have imagined.

So as the team continued to shock with win after win, the odds finally shortened this March when bookmakers put them as favorites to win the Premiership. And last night at the home of last year’s champion, Chelsea, the only team that could possibly catch them, Tottenham Hotspur, had to win.

Up 2-0 at the halftime break, Tottenham looked like it would make the chase last for at least another game, but Chelsea came back against their London rivals to tie the game and in the process gifted Leicester City with its first title in the world's hardest and most exciting league.

One could have been forgiven to think that it was actually Leicester playing Monday at Stamford Bridge as, toward the end of the game, tens of thousands of Chelsea fans were shouting "Leicester! Leicester!"

In homage to the team’s former boss – yes, Claudio Ranieri once steered the Blues to a second place finish – the Chelsea faithful even put his name into one of their favorite chants.

“One Ranieri, One Ranieri, There’s only one Ranieri.”

Well they did it, and experts say their amazingly brilliant achievement will make them hundreds of millions of dollars to add to the club’s coffers.

So a salute to the new stars of world soccer:

To Jamie Vardy, who was told he was too small to make it and is now rumored to be the subject of a Hollywood movie. He played non-league soccer before being scouted by Leicester City. He now has 22 goals to his name this season and has played and scored for England, making his debut late last year.

To former Algerian journeyman and current Premiership MVP, Riyad Mahrez. The Leicester playmaker is now hot property and is going to be wanted by some of Europe's richest clubs. Rumors are that he's going to sign a new long-term deal with Leicester.

To N'Golo Kanté, a superb midfielder, who made his way from the lower leagues of French soccer to now being a Premier league champion.

To Danny Drinkwater, who was let go by Manchester United and picked up and reborn at Leicester.

To team captain, Wes Morgan, who brought Leicester from the Championship, the league below the Premiership, to winning the top prize in English soccer.

And to the Danish goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, son of one the best goalkeeper's ever, Peter Schmeichel, who won everything in the 1990s with Manchester United. Kasper can now come out from under his father's shadow. He's earned it and will be forever a Leicester hero.

The Leicester City story is a lesson that we can all profit from, showing that hard work will always pay off no matter what field you play on.

Oh, what a beautiful game it is.

Video of the week

Here are the ten best goals that helped Leicester to win the Prem.

From the wires

Tucked in the Chinatown area of Bangkok is a Buddhist temple that has turned overnight into a venerated site for Leicester City's fans, at least the ones in Thailand.

After all, it was the chief monk of that temple who some months ago had predicted that the team, which was a 5,000-1 outsider at the start of the season, would win the English Premier League title.

The prediction came true on Monday night, and by Tuesday morning fans were flocking to the Golden Buddha temple, hoping to get their hands on Leicester City banners blessed by the monk, Phra Prommangkalachan, who is revered by the club's Thai owners.

But no banners were for sale, the monk's assistant, Korpsin Uiamsa-ard, told the throngs of disappointed fans.

"I never believed in blessings until now," said Ling Prakorpvoon, 51, who came from the neighboring province of Chonburi for the blessed banner. "He (the monk) is incredible. Leicester never won and now this miracle."

Premier League football is popular among Thais, but many are fans of better-known teams such as Manchester United or Chelsea.

"The odds (of Leicester winning the title) were quite low. I am a follower of the monk himself and I think he is magical and holy," said Songwit Suwannaram, who has been the monk's follower for more than 10 years. "I so badly want the Leicester banner now because this just happened."

In fact, only a few such banners exist, said Korpsin, wearing Leicester City's dark blue jersey. He showed The Associated Press one of them — a rectangular yellow silk cloth with blue tassels and the club's fox emblem emblazoned on it. The fox is surrounded by Buddhist religious symbols.

Korpsin said the banners will not be sold but will be given to people chosen by Prommangkalachan.

"At the start of the year, if I had forced someone to take the Leicester team banner, no one would have touched it. Who would've thought?" he said in an interview in a small room in the sprawling temple complex not far from the city's main train station.

The monk came into prominence when Thailand's King Power duty free company, owned by billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, bought Leicester City six years ago. Vichai is a devotee of Prommangkalachan and got him to bless the team.

The monk himself was not available for an interview but in an interview with Thailand's Spring News cable TV channel in March, Prommangkalachan said that when he traveled to England the first time to give the blessings he realized there were "no meditations or blessings related to football."

"I scoured through all my books and manual, for anything that could be used to bless a football team. But there was no football in ancient times," he said. However, "I found blessings for war, which is similar to football games ... It seemed the most fitting for the situation, so I used this."

Vichai has also flown several monks from the temple — its Thai name is Wat Traimitr Withayaram — to England to bless the team, the King Power stadium in Leicester City, and also to lead spiritual sessions for the players.

Prommangkalachan said Leicester's success has less to do with his blessings than with Vichai's karma, or the results of a person's actions. "Not just his karma. So many people played a part in this success," he said. "All I helped to do is to make our home, the stadium, a holy ground."

The temple plans to give gold amulets, blessed by Prommangkalachan, to each of the club's players. The unblessed amulets are sold in the temple's shop for about $1,700. Korpsin said two bigger amulets are reserved for Vichai and the team coach Claudio Ranieri, probably valued at about $5,000.

Even the young disciples who live and work at the temple are now fans of Leicester City, said Korpsin. "They all used to be Manchester United or Liverpool fans."

Now they wear the team's dark blue jerseys as they sweep leaves off the temple grounds and carry on other chores.

And at night? "They all transform — they wear Leicester's white away-game jerseys and chant its name while watching the game," said Korpsin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.