Shinji Okazaki fuelled Japanese following of Leicester


There might be a Leicester fiesta and a Vardy party going on but it's not just the East Midlands city which is celebrating the crowning of the new Premier League champions.

Nearly 6,000 miles away from the King Power Stadium, a group of Tokyo-based Foxes fans have been meeting up to watch the historic season unfold - and have been duly rewarded.

Kazunori Komagata, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo, got into Leicester City after playing FIFA and the club's badge reminding him of wild foxes in his native Hokkaido.

Leicester City Foxes banner
(Mike Egerton/PA)

The 29-year-old said: "Before starting this season, almost all Japanese people didn't know about Leicester City

"Japanese football fans thought Leicester is just a small club and they will struggle to stay up in the Premier League again.

"But after Shinji Okazaki joined, Japanese TV decided to broadcast every Leicester match and due to Leicester's success and Okazaki's contribution, lots of Japanese noticed the team and supported them."

Shinji Okazaki in action For Leicester
(Martin Rickett/PA)

Watching the games live has led to a number of sacrifices with kick-off times ranging from 10pm to 4am in Japan.

Komagata said: "Most Japanese supporters go to their job or school with sleep deprivation the next morning."

Shinji Okazaki in action for Leicester against Manchester United
(Martin Rickett/PA)

Other Foxes fans have united in the US, South Africa and Canada to watch Leicester's journey to the top of the table.

Max Bourne, a 34-year-old television producer who splits his time between New York and Canada, has been following Claudio Ranieri's team from all over the world.

He said: "The best response I had was in a cab in a small village in Mexico, the guy asked where I was from and I told him Leicester, his face immediately lit up and he said 'Jamie Vardy!'."

Jamie Vardy in action for Leicester
(Nick Potts/PA)

Steve Kendall, 59, is originally from Wigston but now lives more than 5,000 miles away in Pasadena, California.

He said: "In the eight years I have lived here I have often worn my (Leicester) shirt and in previous years had the very occasional comment. This season it's been so different. So many people now know about and recognise the Leicester shirt.

"I was in Trader Joes supermarket buying some Weetabix and the guy stacking the shelf kept me talking for 10 minutes telling me how he was trying to explain to his American friends how big an achievement Leicester's season was."

His first taste of Leicester City was in 1965 when his father took him to see the Foxes lose 5-0 against Manchester United.

Leicester fans on the top of the city's clock tower
(Jonathan Brady/PA)

Speaking about this season, he said: "It's all Roy of the Rovers stuff and if you were writing it as a story you would be told to stop exaggerating."

Philip Herbert, 35, from Cape Town, South Africa, rallied against his Manchester United-supporting father to back the Blues and said he has found this season "unbelievable".

"Watching this season has been unbelievable especially in terms of what we achieved last season with the great escape, we were merely hoping for a mid-table finish. That would have been less stressful but Leicester City does not do it the normal way."