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Sports

Panthers, UK's Leicester City Share Football Success

cam newton shinji okazaki
BBC Radio Leicester illustration
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Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton, and Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki.

As the Carolina Panthers count the hours until Super Bowl 50, they’ve found support from another football team - not American football, but the other football - Leicester City of the British Premier League.

A year ago, neither the Panthers nor Leicester City’s Foxes would have been anybody’s pick to win league titles. The Panthers had a losing record, and got knocked out of the playoffs early. Leicester was in the Premier League basement, barely escaping relegation to a lower division.

This year, both teams are flying high, and fans in both cities are exuberant.

Jo Haywood is the morning host at the BBC’s Radio Leicester.  I chatted with her early Friday, for a segment on her Breakfast Show.  

"Everybody loves an underdog, don’t they. The rise of Leicester City this season has just swept everybody off their feet. It’s been wonderful. And there have been links now, haven’t there, between Leicester City and the Panthers, between the players and indeed between the fans," Haywood said.

In January, players from both teams exchanged jerseys … and posted photos and messages of support on social media.  There’s Carolina kicker Graham Gano in Leicester blue. And here's Leicester’s league-leading striker Jamie Vardy wearing a Cam Newton Number 1.

Leicester striker Shinji Okazaki has even taken to dancing Newton’s "dab" after goals.

We radio hosts are getting in on the well-wishing, too.

"I think as spiritual partners in the world of football, be it American or soccer, we’ll wish the Panthers well," Haywood said.  

I told her: "And good luck to Leicester against Manchester City on Saturday."

"Yeah, big game for us, too," she replied.

If Leicester wins, they’ll open up a big lead on renowned Manchester City. For the Panthers, well, we all know what it means if they win Sunday.

RELATED LINKS

Listen to my full early morning interview with Jo Haywood on BBC Radio Leicester, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/

Jan. 14, 2016, ESPN.com, “Panthers’ success inspires Premier League’s Leicester City F.C.”

Jan. 23, 2016, CharlotteObserver.com, “Carolina Panthers return the love to English soccer team”

Jo Haywood mentions a little dance that footballer Peter Crouch used to do after scoring a goal. They called it the Robot.  Here’s what it looked like – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzo_yi1_fws – Not quite the same flair as Cam’s Dab.

Feb. 3, 2016, BBC.com, “Leicester City: Why we are all rooting for the Foxes.”