Argentine forward Leonardo Ulloa and Leicester City FC just won the English Premier League against all odds. A truly unprecedented feat.
The cinderella story that is Leicester City is hard to put into words. How can one possibly describe the magic that leads a team that was originally booked as having a 5,000-to-1 shot of winning the league to an English crown? It’s the kind of story that leaves fans speechless, smiling, believing in a world where our small town teams can fight for soccer prominence and gain gilded glory in powerful ways.
In honor of Leicester’s success, here’s a look at some squads that have been equally as epic over the years:
Deportivo de la Coruña, La Liga 1999-2000 Champions
Claudio Ranieri’s Valencia squad (yep – Leicester City’s current coach was in Spain this year) lost 2-0 to the Deportivo de la Coruña team that went on to shock the world and win La Liga during the 1999-00 season (I guess he must’ve been taking notes?).
Super Depor won the league with just 69 points in 2000, beating Barcelona 2-1 and Real Madrid 5-2 among other notable victories. The team was led by Brazilian midfield force Flávio Conceição, who struck 27 times, along with countrymen Djalminha and Mauro Silva. And they weren’t just goalscorers, they were shot stoppers too; Argentine goalkeeper Martín Herrera played all 38 games en route to holding his side’s league-best defensive record.
Cúcuta Deportivo, Colombia Categoría Primera A 2006-I Champions.
On December 20, 2006 – less than a year after jumping up to first division fútbol upon winning the 2005 Torneo de Ascenso – Cúcuta Deportivo claimed its first ever first division championship. The final was played against Deportes Tolima, with Rodrigo Saraz netting the loan goal in a 1-0 victory in the first leg, and captain Macnelly Torres scoring in the team’s 1-1 second-leg tie. 2-1 global.
Panameño Blas Pérez was the team’s top goalscorer with nine, one ahead of Lin Carlos Henry. A lineup loaded with Colombians was complemented by the presence of uruguayos Roberto Bobadilla and Charles Castro.
O’Higgins, Chile Primera División 2013 Apertura Champions
Rancagua-based club O’Higgins FC needed a win in the last game week of the 2013 Apertura in order to go level with Universidad Católica at the top of the table. Down 3-2 in a nailbiter away to Rangers de Talca, Eduardo Berizzo’s tactical changes translated into a quick goal. 3-3. Then – in the 88th minute of the match – Argentine attacker Pablo Calandria drew a penalty in the area. The opposing goalkeeper was tossed, and given that Rangers had already made three changes, Hugo Díaz had to hop in goal. Needless to say, Calandria scored and the crowd erupted. 4-3 victory.
The championship tiebreaker (both O’Higgins and Universidad Católica ended level with 12-2-3 records) was played at the Estadio Nacional. In the 35th minute, a goal from Pedro Pablo Hernández – the man who led the lineup with seven strikes in 18 games – sealed the deal for O’Higgins.
Juan Aurich, Peru Primera División 2011 Champions
Juan Aurich became the first team from outside of Lima to win the Torneo Descentralizado since 1981 during the 2011 season. The squad – coached by Colombian DT Diego Umaña – lost the first-leg of the final vs. Alianza Lima by a narrow 1-2 margin before winning 1-0 thanks to a stellar strike from forward Ysrael Zúñiga. The win forced a third leg, which they won 3-1 in penalties at the Estadio Nacional.
Progreso, Uruguay Primera División 1989 Champions
1989 is único for a number of reasons, the least of which being that it marks Progreso’s only ever first division title. This was the only championship in league history to feature a single round-robin format due to calendar conflicts with national and international competitions. Progreso’s team – which featured the likes of leading goalscorer Jonnhy Miqueiro, Leonardo Ramos, Leonel Rocco, and Pedro Pedrucci – was led by club president Tabaré Vázquez, who years later went on to become President of Uruguay.
Coritiba, Campeonato Brasileiro Série A 1985 Champions
1985: The year that Coritiba took down Corinthians, Santos, and Atlético-MG in the same season. The year the team won the league and ended top of the table with 12 wins, 10 losses, and seven ties despite a -2 goal differential. The year they beat Bangu in the finals – 1-1, 5-6 in penalties – in front of a crowd of over 90,000 fans at the Maracanã, making them the first club from Paraná to win a national crown. Yep. Epic.
Famous Brazilian poet Paulo Leminski was a super hincha during this time. In fact, he wrote his “Declaração Alviverde” as an ode of sorts to the championship team:
“This Coritiba title, a team of tradition, but of a small town, is a title for democracy. Title of the New Republic, a title for every person who simply sits in the stands at the Maracanã – like a poor child around a fire – waiting to scream goal,’ a feeling in line with one of joy that comes from a piece of bread. Thank you Coritiba, for this happiness.”
Club Tijuana, Apertura 2012 Champions
Club Tijuana has existed for less than a decade. It was only founded in 2007, and yet it somehow managed to defeat Toluca (vying for its 11th title) in the 2012 Apertura finals in its second year of first division fútbol (a mere 18 months and 59 games after ascending). 2-1 and 2-0 wins equaled a 4-1 global mark, with Richard Ruiz and Duvier Riascos scoring second-half goals in the important second-leg matchup. Spectacular.