LCFC in Thailand
The Leicester City Football Club in Bangkok, Thailand, attending chairman Vichai’s funeral.

Thirteen members of Premier League’s Leicester City Foxes arrived in Bangkok, Thailand for the funeral of their club’s owner and chairman, Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Manager Claude Puel, strikers Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki, team captain Wes Morgan and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel were among the visitors who flew the 12 hours from England on a chartered flight that left soon after their victory against Cardiff City on Saturday.

The players paid their respects during the second day of seven dedicated to the club owner’s funeral, the first three days sponsored by the Thai Royal family.

While the Thai tycoon, a man who made his riches in duty free shopping, did not live a flamboyant or public life in Thailand, he did indeed have a significant impact on the Thai psyche and may very well have a great impact on the future of Thai football.

Thai Pride: The Guardian quoted a few Thais who are grateful to what Vichai has meant to Thailand and Thai football.

“It’s Thailand’s team,” said Chatworachet Sae-Kow, a Leicester City fan in Bangkok. “It brought fame to Thailand when they won [the title]. He carried the Thai flag with him and made people know more about Thailand.

“I could feel your commitment and dedication to what you do, and the warmth and love you had for me,” said Kawin Thamsatchanan, goalkeeper for the Thai national team who plays for Oud-Heverlee Leuven – the Belgium football club also owned by Vichai. “Thank you for the opportunity and confidence in me.”

Said Anutin Charnvirakul, head of the Bhumjai Thai political party, “He is a self-made man, worked hard and loved friends dearly. We just lost someone who made big contributions to the public. I am sure his legacy will live on.”

King Power Thai Power Project: Part of Vichai’s legacy will be the ways his company has promoted football in Thailand. According to The Bangkok Post, one component of the project is “Sports Power,” in which King Power is investing 200 million baht earmarked to build artifical turf fields at an international standard at schools across Thailand, targeting 100 schools by 2022.

Additionally, the project will contribute one million soccer balls ensuring young Thais of the most important article required to play. The balls and the fields will undoubtedly contribute to the general development of the sport in the Kingdom.

Fox Hunt: King Power is also sponsoring a scholarship program for promising Thai footballers under 15 years of age. According to The Nation, King Power selects top teenage football talent. It takes a year to identify and evaluate, but the stakes are high – world-class training for 30 months at Ratcliffe College in the UK. King Power foots the bill of about Bt15 million for one player, but the potential for rapid development of their talent is great. Leicester City’s chairman, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, son of chairman Vichai, said “One of the most important experience for then will be sports science which is different from ours. They will also learn to depend on themselves too as great self disciplinary will lead them to succeed.”

Said Watcharaphong Tunkitjalorn, a 15-year-old midfielder from Suphanburi Sports School who was selected in year two of the program, “I dream of leading a Thai national team to the World Cup. It’s so hard to believe that I have been selected and I will learn as much as possible when I’m there.”

King Power and the Leicester City Foxes did not just make dreams possible in England. They are doing that in Thailand as well.

Advertisements
Vichai and Leicester City Premier League Champions
Out of nowhere: Vichai’s footmen stunned the world. Credit: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGE

Leicester City is famous for King Richard III, killed in the waning days of the War of the Roses and buried in Greyfriars Friary in Leicester.

But the Shakespearian take on the Leicester City Football Club (LCFC) and its famous run to the Premier League Championship in 2015 is less King Richard III’s “A horse! My kingdom for a horse,” and more King Henry V’s “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

The untimely death of LCFC’s chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha on October 27, 2018, was a sad story for the fans of LCFC and the community of Leicester City. But the global outpouring of grief for the family of Srivaddhanaprabha and LCFC fans is due to the historic run of the LCFC to the Premier League championship in the 2015-2016 season.

In arguably the most popular football league in the world, England’s Premier League has had, really, only four teams that win the championship: Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. There has been only two teams outside of those four which have won the championship since the start of the Premier League in 1992. One of those is Leicester City, a team that has historically spent more time in lower divisions, and has never come close to the upper echelons of English football, and was 5,000 to 1 odds to become champions that year.

And yet, the Leicester City Foxes defied those odds.

English football is organized through a series of leagues that form a pyramid, the Premier League showcasing the best teams in England, followed by The English Football League, which has three levels: The Championship, League One and League Two. Based on performance, teams get promoted or demoted into leagues. Part of the incredible story of the LCFC is that Leicester City were in League One in 2008. And yet, in only 7 years, the Foxes climbed through two lower leagues to get to the Premier League in 2014. That season started poorly for Leicester City, and the team was threatened with demotion back to The Championship League, until they staged The Great Escape, winning seven of their final nine matches in 2015 to escape relegation.

Despite their great finish to stay in the Premier League, no one had any idea that Leicester City would become the most talked about football team in the world in the 2015-2016 campaign. Below are the details of Leicester City’s incredible run, which included a change in managers and the record-breaking goal-scoring feats of LCFC striker, Jamie Vardy.

  • Jul 13, 2015: Italian Claudio Ranieri becomes manager of the LCFC after the sacking of Nigel Pearson, whose issues off the field became untenable.
  • Aug 8: Leicester City 4 – Sunderland 2 (W) – first victory of the season
  • Sep 13: Leicester City 3 – Aston Villa 2 (W) come from 0-2 to win, is in second place behind Manchester City
  • Sept 19: Stoke City 2 – Leicester City 2 (T) down 0-2 and comes back to tie
  • Sept 26: Leicester City 2 – Arsenal 5 (L) drops LC to 8th place
  • Oct 3: Norwich City 1 – Leicester City 2 (W)
  • Oct 17: Southampton 2 – Leicester City 2 (T) again come back from 2 down; Jamie Vardy scores both, for goals in sixth game in a row
  • Oct 24: Leicester City 1 – Crystal Palace 0 (W) Vardy connects for 7th game in a row, LCFC climbs back up to 5th.
  • Nov 21: Newcastle United 0 – Leicester City 3 (W) Vardy scores the first goal and ties league record of goals in 10 consecutive games; LCFC moves to third, ahead of Manchester United
  • Nov 28: Leicester City 1 – Manchester United (T) Vardy scores the first goal to break the league record of goals scored in consecutive games – 11
Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy
  • Dec 26: Liverpool 1 – Leicester City 0 (L) After winning the next three, LCFC suffers their only their second loss of the season
  • Jan 23, 2016: Leicester City 3 – Stoke City 0 (W) After drawing against Manchester City and Bournemouth to reach 2nd place, LC defeats Stoke City convincingly to assume first place
  • Feb 2: Leicester City 2 – Liverpool 0 (W)
  • Feb 6: Manchester City 1 – Leicester City 3 (W)
  • Feb 14: Arsenal 2 – Leicester City 1 (L) Leicester City loses their third match of the season, but holding onto slim lead over Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. It is the last time the Foxes will lose in 2015.
  • Feb 27: Leicester City 1 – Norwich City 0 (W) in 89th minute Vardy scores the winning goal
  • Mar 1: Leicester City 2 – West Bromwich Albion 2 (T)
  • Mar 5: Watford 0 – Leicester City 1 (W)
  • Mar 14: Leicester City 1 – Newcastle United 0 (W)
  • Mar 19: Crystal Palace 0 – Leicester City 1 (W)
  • Apr 3: Leicester City 1 – Southampton 0 (W)
  • Apr 10: Sunderland 0 – Leicester City 2 (W)
  • Apr 17: Leicester City 2 – West Ham 2 United (T)
  • Apr 24: Leicester City 4 – Swansea City 0 (W) – 7points ahead of Hotspur, need 3 more for the title
  • May 1: Manchester United 1 – Leicester City 1 (T)
  • May 2: Tottenham 2 – Chelsea 2 (T) – Tottenham is up 2-0 at half-time, but Chelsea comes back to equalize, which means The Leicester City Foxes are the champions of the Premier League.
  • May 7: Leicester City 3 – Everton 1 (W)
  • May 15: Chelsea 1 – Leicester City 1 (T)


RIP Vichai

“Brighton for Chilwell again…and Graaay…Goal for Leicester City!” shouted the play-by-play announcer as Demarai Gray of Leicester City Football Club knocked a half volley into the Cardiff net. Gray immediately removed his shirt to reveal the words “For Vichai,” and then joined his teammates to celebrate with LCFC fans in their corner of Cardiff City Stadium.

“And the perfect tribute for their former chairman, who died so tragically a week ago, beautifully taken by Demarai Gray. And just look at the collective celebration, players and supporters alike.”

Demarai Gray celebrates goal against Cardiff Demarai Gray celebrates goal against Cardiff

Leicester City (LCFC) defeated Cardiff City on Saturday, November 4, 2018, in a somewhat meaningless game in the Premier League standings, but oh so meaningful to Leicester City and Premier League fans all over the world.

It was only a week ago on Saturday, October 27, when the routine turned into disaster as LCFC’s chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, boarded the team helicopter at the end of a Leicester City game from the middle of the LCFC pitch. Only moments later after barely making it out or the stadium, the helicopter spun out of control and crashed into the stadium parking lot in a ferocious ball of flames.

While players, staff and fans speculated, it took several hours before the press told the world what was suspected – Vichai, along with two members of Vichai’s staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and the pilot’s friend, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, perished in the accident.

It has been a week of shock and tears for Leicester City fans, whose love for their former chairman is bottomless. Fans and experts credit Vichai with a turnaround that is, essentially, unprecedented in the Premier League. In 2010, Vichai was part of a consortium that purchased the English Football League Championship club Leicester City, and became chairman a year later.

Leicester City Cardiff City moment of silence Moment of silence before start of match between Leicester City and Cardiff City

Leicester City would then go on a run that is essentially unprecedented. The team made it to the top football league in England, the Premier League, and in the 2015-2016 campaign, despite being given a 5,000-to-1 shot of winning the league championship, decisively brought the title home to Leicester City. Imagine a Double AA team in America’s baseball farm system rising together to make it to Triple A ball, the Major Leagues, and then winning the American League East. In America, that’s not possible. But then again, no one thought Leicester City’s rise to the heights of England’s top league was possible either.

As one fan said after Vichai passed away, “he made us champions.”

FCLC’s chairman was also the founder of King Power, the dominant duty-free business in Thailand, which is the name that adorns the team’s stadium and jerseys. And while there has been resistance to foreign owners of Premier League football clubs in the past, Vichai helped bring a winning attitude to the team while demonstrating a powerful common touch, reaching out to the fan base in intimate ways. He would provide beer and food to fans in the stadium, handing them personally to them. He awarded 60 random season ticket holders free renewals this year on his 60th birthday, a special birthday for Asians.

“It’s a big thing for Leicester City, this,” said one elderly lady paying tribute outside King Power Stadium. “And he was the best bloke you could have. He never went without acknowledging you. He was OK giving you bacon sandwiches you know, your cup of tea before you went your breakfast.”

Gab Marcotti, senior writer for ESPN FC, remarked how unique Vichai was:

Without question Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, from the moment he took over Leicester City FC, well before the miracle and whatever else, he invested money in the club. He was also very clear about having a footprint in the community, donating money to local charities, taking time to stay and greet the fans before and after games. It’s very easy to be cynical about these billionaires who buy Premier League clubs. Is it just a play thing? Is it something where he wants a financial return? It might have been those things but it was also something he really lived for every match day.   It’s no coincidence that it led to his passing that he made the effort of coming over there, flying his helicopter onto the pitch, on and off before and after the game. Without question, he was one of the most beloved owners of the Premier League.

Vichai The Boss

A couple of days before the match with Cardiff City, LCFC manager, Claude Puel said that “The game is not important. The result is not important, but our desire, our actions to give our best on the pitch to honour our chairman, is the most important thing. About our conviction, our focus, we will be ready. I am confident the players can give their best.”

At the end of the match with Cardiff City, happy they could win the game for their beloved chairman, the team stood together in front of their fans. As Cardiff City Stadium emptied out, the LCFC fans in their corner of the stadium, many wearing white t-shirts with Vichai’s face boldly saying “The Boss,” stood and sang Leicester City songs, held up flags of Thailand, chanting “Vi-chai.”

For a long time, amidst the empty stadium, the players and fans communed, trying their best to say good bye. The players finally parted, and made their way to the locker room to begin preparations for a long flight to Bangkok, Thailand to attend the funeral for their chairman.