For a start, we don’t play egg Russian roulette or red bum, and unlike the Leicester City defender, we didn’t play a crucial role in the greatest sports story ever told.
It’s a special brand of New York City hot outside, and Premier League champion Christian Fuchs is playing ball boy. With a bulging bag slung over his shoulder, the 30-year-old native of Austria trudges across Frederick Douglass Field, a football citadel enclosed by a black chain-link fence on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He empties the bag, then clears the discarded pinnies that litter the artificial turf. After wiping his brow, Fuchs drags two small-sided goals with bright yellow nets to opposing ends of a makeshift field. He pauses briefly to take in his work before signaling to his teammates: time to play.
About a dozen elementary-school-age children, members of the Fox Soccer Academy, break into two teams and start a game. Fuchs joins in, repeatedly dribbling around the campers orbiting him before laying off pass after pass to diminutive teammates. After 20 minutes, he’s drenched in sweat.
Many footballers have their own camps, but few embrace the tedium of actually organizing and playing at them. It’s easier to stuff a few signed T-shirts in a box, cash checks from campers’ parents, and jet off to Bali. But that’s not Christian Fuchs, starting left back for Leicester City and one of the protagonists in the greatest football story of all time. Fuchs, as usual, is all in.
“Everything I do, I do with full passion and a lot of fun,” he tells Eight by Eight in lightly accented English. “Otherwise I would not be satisfied.”
Asked the source of his unrelenting ebullience, Fuchs points to his wife, Raluca Gold-Fuchs, who lives in New York with his 7-year-old stepson, Ethan, and their 1-year-old son, Anthony. As for formative experiences, Fuchs doesn’t pinpoint a specific moment or incident, instead citing the sum of his 13-year professional career. He climbed club football’s food chain at a measured rate. And then, just when it looked as if it might stall, he became an apex predator overnight.
Fuchs signed his first professional contract with SV Mattersburg in Austria when he was 17. Five years later, in 2008, he made the leap to German football, joining the Bundesliga’s VfL Bochum, where he played two years. He went on loan to 1. FSV Mainz 05 for a season, then transferred to perennial top-four contender FC Schalke 04. He played four seasons for Die Königsblauen (the Royal Blues), helping the club to a German Super Cup in 2011 and three straight Champions League Round of 16 appearances. But then, at the end of the 2014–2015 season, though Fuchs had made 30 appearances, FC Schalke announced they would not renew his contract.
Days after the news became public, an unlikely suitor arrived: Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson, who persuaded him to go to the Premier League. Roughly a month later, Pearson was relieved of his duties. Leicester City, of course, put on a miraculous run—seven wins in their last nine matches—to remove their head from the relegation guillotine moments before the blade dropped.
Pearson’s replacement was Claudio Ranieri. The 64-year-old avuncular journeyman turned miracle worker buried Fuchs on the bench for much of the first act of Leicester City’s season. But after the club’s first loss, a 5-2 drubbing by Arsenal at home on Sept. 26, Ranieri moved Jeffrey Schlupp, then a left-back, into the midfield and gave Fuchs his first Premier League start. Leicester won 2-1 at Norwich City. From that day on, Fuchs had the left-back spot locked up, starting 30 of Leicester’s 31 remaining games and playing 90 minutes in all but one of them. The one game he missed was because of injury.
The 6-1, 176-pound Fuchs has a stern-with-swagger playing style that proved vital to Leicester’s lifting the Premier League trophy. He was utterly dependable in the five-game winning streak from March 5 to April 10 in which the Foxes did not concede a single goal. And for a highlight moment that will live in Leicester lore for generations, see his no-look 30-yard ball that set up Jamie Vardy to break the Premier League’s consecutive-game scoring record against Manchester United on Nov. 28. Perhaps the most telling statistic: Leicester conceded an average of two goals a game in the matches Fuchs did not start. With him in the starting lineup, that dropped to 0.66 goals per game.
It wasn’t just his play that had Leicester City fans pledging their fealty to Fuchs. As the football world heaped pressure on the team of journeymen and discards, Fuchs embodied the club’s devil-may-care ethos, staying grounded regardless of results. On Feb. 7, the day after Leicester defeated Manchester City 3-1 at the Etihad to move five points clear at the top of the table, he spent the day hanging out with an American supporter he’d never before met in person.
Fuchs had initiated a Twitter conversation with Jason Becker, co-founder of the New York Foxes supporters’ club, some months earlier when he noticed that Becker lived in New York. When Becker, 33, made the pilgrimage to England to watch Leicester play Liverpool at home and Manchester City away, Fuchs suggested they meet up. “I’m not an alien, and he’s not an alien,” Fuchs said. “We’re all human beings, so why not?”
They met at Duffy’s Bar, an Irish pub along Pocklingtons Walk in downtown Leicester, and sipped pints of Guinness and Carlsberg while watching Chelsea vs. Manchester United on television. When they finished at Duffy’s, Fuchs accompanied Becker and a few friends to Peter Pizzeria, where Leicester manager Ranieri famously treated his players to pizza after a clean sheet against Crystal Palace in October. And because the espresso machine was broken, they ended the night at a coffee shop.
“You can tell right away he’s a genuine guy,” Becker said. “I actually didn’t expect anything different.”
Even those football fans who’ve never met Fuchs feel as if they know him thanks to a social-media presence that provided a behind-the-scenes look at Leicester City’s title-winning season. It was Fuchs who posted video of Vardy thanking his teammates in the locker room after equaling Ruud van Nistelrooy’s consecutive-game scoring streak against Newcastle on Nov. 21. The Austrian also has a starring role in video from the party at Vardy’s house, where the Leicester squad watched the 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Tottenham that secured the title. At the time of writing, Fuchs’ tweet from that night had 220,000 retweets and 200,000 likes.
Fueled by the hashtag “#NoFuchsGiven,” Fuchs’s Twitter account is equal parts HBO’s Hard Knocks and MTV’s Jackass. The glimpses into locker-room life are complemented by more jocular videos: Fuchs and center back Robert Huth playing red bum, for example, in which they smash balls at each other’s backsides, Fuchs doing keepie uppies with a medicine ball, Fuchs and Vardy smashing eggs on each other’s heads.
This last video, posted to his Twitter account on Easter, features him and Vardy in black-and-orange “No Fuchs Given” T-shirts playing egg Russian roulette. Fuchs begins the 1 minute 29 second video by delivering the rules, deadpan: “Three are raw. Three are hard-boiled. And the game is easy. Whoever gets smashed twice on the head loses.”
They smash and laugh, Beavis-and-Butt-Head style, hoping not to get two raw eggs and lose. In the end, Vardy busts a second consecutive raw egg on Fuchs’s forehead and celebrates over audio of Leicester fans chanting “Jamie Vardy’s having a party.” As for the origin of the game, “I saw Jimmy Fallon doing it on his own head,” Fuchs explained.
No Fuchs Given was born with the help of Ben Weisfeld, 28, founder and CEO of NFG, a London-based media and branding agency at which Fuchs is both a client and part owner. The pair met last summer through mutual friends in New York. Fuchs liked the idea of expanding his profile in a social channel where he could control the content and be himself. Weisfeld believes it’s Fuchs’s unique personality that has made him a must-follow, not only in the English Midlands but also around the world.
“Our aim was to make him go beyond Leicester fans and become a go-to page and go-to person for any football fan who wants to see what Premier League life is really like,” Weisfeld said. “The content we’ve made isn’t luxurious. It’s edited on a phone. It’s really simple.”
Fuchs says he rarely needs to give a sales pitch when casting teammates. “I think we have a great team at Leicester and everybody is simply cool about it, so the videos that I did didn’t take a lot of convincing.”
How Fuchs’s new teammates take to having balls kicked at their bums and eggs smashed on their heads remains to be seen. Among the club’s notable summer signings are 23-year-old Nigerian striker Ahmed Musa from CSKA Moscow and 24-year-old Nice midfielder Nampalys Mendy. Foxes fans hope the latter helps fill the hole in the team’s heat map caused by the indefatigable N’Golo Kante’s departure to Chelsea. That transfer aside, Leicester were able to keep a majority of their championship team intact.
“I think all the players that played a big role in last year’s title, they know what they have at Leicester,” Fuchs said. “This great atmosphere. A big part of history. And playing in Champions League with Leicester for the first time. This is a goose-bumps feeling.”
Among those watching Fuchs ply his trade in the Champions League this season are the 80 campers who attended his Fox Soccer Academy in New York. The camp—named not for the Leicester City mascot, but because “Fuchs” is German for “fox”—is one way he’s weaving himself into the tapestry of his new hometown.
After 10 years and 78 appearances with the Austrian side, Fuchs retired from international football this summer to spend more time with his family at the Harlem townhouse they purchased. He has two years left on his contract at Leicester, then plans to make New York his permanent home. One of the first things he always does after touching down is to order sushi.
“Being a New Yorker is much better than just coming here and being a tourist,” he said. “I don’t care about the sites. I like the local things.”
The move to the Big Apple also presents an exciting final chapter to his football career.
“There are a lot of clubs here that are getting better and better, and not just the MLS teams,” he said. “The New York Cosmos are very interesting to me because they have a great history. Beckenbauer, Pele, and my friend Raúl all played there so, you know, there are a couple of options. I’m keen on moving here and playing soccer here. (He and Raúl were teammates at Schalke.)
“And then,” added Mr. No Fuchs Given, “why not extending my career to the NFL and being a kicker? Why not Christian Fuchs for the Giants?”