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Leicester City On The Verge Of An Improbable, Historic Title

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

An English soccer team is close to ending an awe-inspiring streak of failure. As soon as this weekend, Leicester City could become the champions of England's Premier soccer league, which it's never done in 132 years of playing. Just by way of comparison, the Chicago Cubs here in the U.S. Have gone a mere 108 years without winning a World Series. Leicester City, 132 years without the equivalent. Yet, here they are after an amazing season, on the verge of a title. They just have to win a game this weekend. Let's talk about this with Jason Bourne. He's a BBC sportscaster. He's is in Leicester City. Welcome to the program sir.

JASON BOURNE: Hi, there. Good to be with you.

INSKEEP: How excited are people where you are?

BOURNE: Everybody wants to talk about their number-one subject, their favorite subject at the moment, football in Leicester City. Things have just gone up, not just one notch, not just two, but 10 notches. It is that massive for Leicester City. It would be one of the greatest days in this city's history if they did it this weekend.

INSKEEP: What is the city like?

BOURNE: For me, Leicester City or Leicester itself, has been one of those cities that you pass on, you know, the motorway the highway, and you don't really think about it. You can get to Leicester from London in around just over an hour by train. It doesn't get a lot of focus. I mean, it did last year for Richard III and the reburial of him after finding him in a carpark a couple of years ago.

INSKEEP: Oh, OK.

BOURNE: It's probably the most diverse city in the country. There are a lot of people from Asian background, Hindus, Muslim and Sikhs as well as Christian people and a lot of football fans at the moment.

INSKEEP: I want Americans to understand the complexity of the English Premier soccer league. If I'm not mistaken, if you have a really bad season, you can actually be bumped down to a lower league. The whole team gets sent down to the minor leagues. Didn't that almost happen to this team just one season ago?

BOURNE: It did. Things didn't go great last year for the majority, but it was a decent start. But after that, things really took a nosedive and staying in the Premier League looked like it just wasn't going to happen. But seven wins out of their last nine matches, we've called it the greatest ever escape in English football because they looked dead and buried. But they stayed up, and the rest, they say, is history.

INSKEEP: And it's been an incredible season this year, 22 wins, if I'm not mistaken.

BOURNE: Yes.

INSKEEP: And now they play none other than Manchester United, the team that even non-soccer fans know, this weekend. And a victory seals it all. Is that right?

BOURNE: It does indeed. They go to Manchester United, who've got 76,000-capacity stadium. They're the most successful club in the history of English league. You know, to do it there would be - it would be a dream come true.

INSKEEP: One final thing then. When we look at what made the difference for this team that's come so far, is it that the same players have raised their game or that they've changed the mix of players and the manager as well?

BOURNE: I think a little bit of both. There's a sense of belief after what happened at the end of last season with the greatest escape. But, reason again, you look at somebody like Riyad Mahrez who has got so much skill. Jamie Vardy has got pace and goals in him. N'golo Kante, a Frenchman who came to the club last summer for 5 million pounds, which is peanuts in today's market, he runs and runs and runs. There was a joke last weekend, just before the London Marathon, that N'Golo Kante was using that as a way of warming up and preparing for the game against Swansea. He can run and run and run. He's that good. And the whole team is that good. It will be, like I say, a dream come true if it can happen. And it will happen. It's just a matter of when.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Because the odds are in their favor. Jason Bourne of the BBC in Leicester, England. Thanks very much.

BOURNE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.