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SportsWorld: Living in Leicester on the day of a crowning

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Leicester City’s title run was marvelous and, while technically not over yet, the coup de grace was last week’s rollicking win and trophy-raising day at King Power Stadium.

Our own Joe Prince-Wright was there, and penned a long-form piece on his, and Leicester’s, experiences.

[ PODCAST: Billy Beane relates Leicester to “Moneyball” with MiB ]

We implore you to read the whole thing, but here’s one story that really works for us.

From NBC’s SportsWorld:

Outside The Globe pub, which has been around since 1720, one man stood on his own, in the local club’s shirt, holding a pint as he leaned against a lamppost. Groups of fans were laughing and joking and this one guy was just stood there taking it all in.

His name was John Reading, and the 64-year-old man was overcome with emotion when asked about his feelings.

“It is just a dream. I’ve not stopped pinching himself, because nobody expected this. I’ve seen them lose four FA Cup finals, knocked out of the playoffs. And this is, it’s not… it’s not real. It is not real,” Reading said, shaking his head as his voice quivered. “I know how this story is going all over the world which is amazing. I’m getting choked up thinking about it.”

The great stories in this run continue to mount up, and JPW was at the epicenter.

NBC SportsWorld: The New Normal

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Currently ranked as the number-one team in the world, the Belgian Red Devils should be looking forward to EURO 2016 as a perfect opportunity to win the country’s first silverware since the 1920 Olympics.

[ MORE: Full SportsWorld archive ]

However, football has been put on the back-burner in light of the recent terror attacks in Brussels. The small multicultural country has been divided, leaving the national team as a symbol of hope.

In his latest piece for NBC SportsWorld, our Joe Prince-Wright takes a look at the current situation in Belgium and what role sport can play in the healing process.

From NBC SportsWorld’s “The New Normal”:

Wilmots’ team is made up of players who reflect Belgium’s multicultural society perfectly.

Kompany and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku are of Congolese heritage. Fellaini, Tottenham Hotspur’s Nacer Chadli and teen sensation Zakaria Bakkali are from Morocco. The father of Tottenham’s Moussa Dembele is from Mali.

The family of Liverpool striker Divock Origi is from Kenya. The father of Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Axel Witsel is from Martinique. Thomas Vermaelen speaks to the media in Flemish. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard speaks in French. Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne speaks Dutch, French and English. Fellaini can speak Arabic, French and English.

One thing links all of these players: they play for Belgium. They represent the nation they call home which is currently under attack from within.

Click on the link above to read JPW’s full piece, as it’s a must read.

SportsWorld: The rise of Liverpool’s Danny Ings

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Danny Ings is the ultimate success story, rising from the seventh-tier of English football to Liverpool and the England national team.

[ MORE: Full SportsWorld archive ]

Currently sidelined with a knee injury, our own JPW sat down with the Liverpool striker to see how he rose through the ranks from Sunday League to one of the most historic clubs in the world.

Ings spoke about the long days training as a youth, and the close bond he shares with his father that helped him become the player and the man he is today.

From NBC SportsWorld’s “A Long Road Traveled”:

Growing up, a strong focus to remain on the straight and narrow when everything else seemed to be falling down around him – and distractions lurked in every corner – got him to the top. At the age of 23, he is now overcoming the third major knee injury of his career. Looking at the determination etched over his face, you believe him when he says he’ll come back even stronger this time.

“This is all about the highs and lows of football. I was at the happiest point of my career and then, at the time of the injury, I felt like I was at my lowest point,” Ings said, furrowing his brow. “I just felt like I got my foot in the door. I was becoming established here at Liverpool, playing games and scoring goals, keeping my place in the team and had made my debut for England, then somebody took that all away from me. It is absolutely gutting because football has been my life. If I can’t do what I love doing then it is like someone having their kids taken away from them. That is how I felt. I know that I am going to come back extremely strong.”

Ings has had to be extremely strong and has battled against all the odds just to get to this point.

SportsWorld: A look at the Premier League’s newest rivalry

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There are some rivalries in the Premier League that date back hundreds of years.

There’s the Manchester derby between United and City, and the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham.

[ MORE: Full SportsWorld archive ]

But this year, there is a new derby in England’s top flight, pitting Southampton against Bournemouth.

The two clubs are just 30 miles apart on England’s South Coast, separated by The New Forest. They face-off this Sunday at St. Mary’s Stadium, in the first Premier League installment of “The New Forest derby.”

From JPW’s piece for NBC SportsWorld, “The New Forest derby”:

In general, Bournemouth has always been viewed as somewhat of a feeder club to Southampton. In the past, some of Saints’ most talented youngsters from their famed academy have gone out on loan to the Cherries to gain experience – see Adam Lallana, Andrew Surman and countless others – while Bournemouth were ensconced in the third or fourth tier of English soccer and seemingly a million miles away from a Southampton side who were in the top-flight from 1978 until their demotion to the second-tier in 2005. During that 27-year period, only Portsmouth challenged Southampton’s supremacy on the South Coast, so due to that fact — plus Portsmouth being just 17 miles east of Southampton — that rivalry is known as the “South Coast derby” and will always be the main rivalry down by the English Channel. There is no comparison, at least not in the eyes of Saints fans.

And yet, could this newfound rivalry flourish in years to come?

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth has been riddled with injuries in the club’s first season in the Premier League, currently sitting just two points above the relegation zone. However, a win against their new South Coast rivals could help the club get back on track.

Kompany urges City to be “more Mancunian”; hails best-ever squad

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Vincent Kompany is a Manchester City legend. He’s lifted two Premier League titles for the Citizens and is urging the club to become “more Mancunian” as they continue to grow as a global brand.

[ MORE: Costa – “I’m no angel” ]

There is plenty of speculation flying around regarding Kompany’s status for the Manchester derby on Sunday, as the captain of City could be on the bench for their key clash at Old Trafford against Manchester United (Watch live, 10:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) as he’s been out with a calf injury since September.

Kompany, 29, came on as a late sub in City’s UEFA Champions League win over Sevilla on Wednesday but his manager Manuel Pellegrini has remained coy as Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi could well start against United in a top of the table clash.

Back to Kompany, he told NBC SportsWorld in an exclusive chat that he wants City to become more identifiable with their Mancunian roots.

“It is one of the most important things for Man City in the future. One of the biggest challenges is that we have all these great players from great places but there’s something fundamentally different to Manchester as to other cities,” Kompany said. “I think for Man City to become one of the biggest clubs in the world it will have to go back to being more Mancunian than ever and to expose that as a brand and a way of being. I think that is a big challenge for City in the future. You know, I’ve bought into it a lot and a lot of players have bought into it. There is just something special about that industrial past of Manchester that somehow needs to filter through the youth teams and filter through the first team. This factor is something that people will support Manchester City for.”

Heading into what seems like an even bigger derby than usual on Sunday, with City in first place but just two points ahead of United in third, Kompany hailed the quality of the current squad at Pellegrini’s disposal.

“It is the best squad. Definitely,” Kompany said. “I think our first title win, we had something in the squad. Our personalities were massive in that squad and I think that was the way we managed to come back from that far and win it. I think the talent this year is bigger than it has ever been but the personality the first year was probably the biggest it has ever been.”

He also kept his options open to a move to Major League Soccer when is contract at City is up. The Belgian national team skipper, who is contracted to City until the summer of 2018, also admitted MLS’ popularity is growing in the UK.

“It has been crazy since they [Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard] have moved over because MLS is always on. You get to see so much of MLS now, so it’s actually becoming quite a relevant league to people over here,” Kompany said. “Obviously, we follow quite closely what New York City FC does. For us, it is quite important to be supportive towards that club as well. The level is increasing every single year. You see new franchises coming in, you see so many people going to the stadiums and they are also good stadiums now. I think it is just a fun league to be in so I wouldn’t be surprised to go over there when my contract comes to an end at City.”