Brexit, Trump and Leicester City were all unexpected winners this year. And that is the understatement of the year! The tale of Leicester’s Premier League title, its first in a club history of over 130 years, is one for the ages. The 5000/1 shot that defied the odds to victory. It was one of many accolades in football where the outsiders or the game’s nouveau riche prevailed.

Despite missing Cristiano Ronaldo for much of the final, Portugal won its first major international honours at Euro 2016. Romania’s league champions Astra Giurgiu also won its first title. For a club that spent much of its ninety or so year history in the lower leagues, Astra progressed to the knockout stages of UEFA’s Europa League, dispensing of West Ham United en route.


Another team to progress in Europe were Hapoel Be’er Sheva, who won its first Israeli league title for forty years. Manchester City Women, Seattle Sounders and Adelaide United all won inaugural titles in their respective leagues. And CONMEBOL awarded the Copa Sudamericana to the ill-fated Brazilian club Chapecoense.


In golf, all the major champions were first-time winners, which might not appear remarkable at first glance. Yet, it is only the fifth such occurrence throughout a calendar year since the mid-1930s.

I’m sure we could all contribute here with a plethora of feats from the gamut of sport. However, I would like to concentrate on three more teams whose victories are also worthy of note.

Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year title drought in winning baseball’s World Series. Not that we need to put this in perspective but in 1908 the ink was barely dry on the engineers’ plans for the Titanic. Surely no-one alive remembers the Cubs’ last title win. But few could remember the Cubs’ previous appearance in a World Series – a 4–3 loss to the Detroit Tigers in 1945 – a mere 71 years ago.


For such a poor return, it is remarkable that the Chicago Cubs remained one of the more popular baseball teams in America. Eddie Einhorn, the former owner of Chicago White Sox who also sadly died this year, once said: ‘We have to win for the people to show up. The Cubs have to show up for the people to show up.’ For those that did show up at Wrigley Field, 2016 goes down as a unique year.

The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks took a maiden NRL Premiership after fifty-years in competition. This Southern Sydney-based Rugby league club is not a shabby one. Cronulla has contributed over 25 players to the great Australian national team. They also reached three previous grand finals in 1973, 1978 and 1997, alas all ending in defeat.

With a salary-cap in place and the even spread of talent across the league, NRL games are notoriously difficult to predict. Indeed, there have been eight different winners of the competition in as many seasons. So, you could say Cronulla’s chance was due sooner or later. Yet given the Sharks ended the 2014 campaign with the wooden spoon, this year’s Premiership win was the result of an astounding turnaround.


In 2015, a New York Times article pronounced Cleveland as the ‘Most Cursed Sport City in America’ <>. By utilising ‘metrics to measure sports pain’, the NYT found that Cleveland endured more than its fair share of close calls during the 147 professional seasons since the arrival of its last major championship.

It was the Cleveland Indians who lost to Chicago Cubs in this year’s World Series. In doing so, they also took the dubious title of the team with the longest drought. The less said about the Cleveland Browns’ form in the NFL, the better. So, it was left to the Cleveland Cavaliers to snap the city’s ‘curse’. Led by LeBron James, the Cavs upset the favoured Golden State Warriors in the NBA playoffs to scoop the franchise’s first ever title, and Cleveland’s first major championship for 52 years.

Is there an underdog story of similar magnitude waiting for 2017? Well if RB Leipzig, the bête noir of German football, could pip Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga crown, that would be extraordinary. Nevertheless, 2016 will take some beating.

Cronulla wins the Premiership

Cubs win!

Chicago Cubs fans reactions

Cubs trophy parade

Cavs win!

Cavs fans reaction

1948 World Series