• Kyodo


Shinji Okazaki and his teammates could have streets named after them to commemorate their achievements should Leicester City win the Premier League, according the mayor of Leicester.

The mayor also disclosed that for the last few matches of the title challenge, the city will be lit up in blue — the team’s colors — to support the Foxes in their bid for glory.

Last week Leicester, which entered the season hoping to avoid relegation, secured a top-four finish and currently leads the table, prompting excitement from soccer fans around the world.

“The tradition of naming roads after sporting heroes is one that is fairly common in the U.K. It’s been done in Leicester,” the city’s mayor, Peter Soulsby, said in an interview with Kyodo News.

“We’ve got a whole part of the city named after golfers, many of whom have no connection at all with the city. So I think if we can do that for golfers, we can certainly do it some for the city soccer team.”

Asked if Okazaki would be included, the mayor responded, “Absolutely! I certainly wouldn’t leave him out.”

An avid supporter himself, the mayor has only missed one home game in the last year and stood in line for over an hour to buy stand tickets for Leicester’s last match.

He considers Okazaki to be a valuable member of the team.

“He’s not just very skilled, he’s incredibly committed and he really is a star,” Soulsby said.

“Whenever he is substituted, the crowd rises and cheers. He’s a very popular member of the team as well, and very much appreciated.”

Although Leicester is home to a strong rugby side as well, soccer remains a central part of the local sporting scene.

“For most people in Leicester, it’s the success of the soccer team that is important,” the mayor explained.

A street named “Lineker Road” already exists in the city and is named after former Leicester player Gary Lineker, a native of the city who also played for the J. League’s Nagoya Grampus during his career.

When Leicester won the League Cup in 1997, the local newspaper organized a statue to commemorate the occasion. Funded entirely by people of the city, the statue also celebrates Leicester’s cricketing and rugby prowess.

With the Premier League entering its final weeks, it is clear how much the team’s heroics mean to the city.

“We’re certainly going to be lighting up the city blue,” the mayor said. “From April 29, all of the major public buildings in the city, the City Hall, the Town Hall, the Clock Tower, will turn blue . . . and we are going to keep them blue until the end of the season, whatever happens.”

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