BANGKOK, April 25 – Leicester City’s Thai vice-chairman insisted there was no secret to their miraculous rise after they inched closer to a previously unthinkable English Premier League title.
Hundreds of blue-shirted Thai fans watched Leicester’s 4-0 win over Swansea City live on big screens late into the night at an outdoor venue in Bangkok as the Foxes opened up an eight-point lead at the top of the table.
Afterwards Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha, who is also chief executive of Thailand’s King Power duty-free empire, said Leicester’s rise is “very good for football and for people who love sport”.
“I play sport as well and I understand that inspiration from (striker Jamie) Vardy, inspiration from Leicester has inspired everyone in the world,” he said, in rare comments to media.
“We don’t have a secret… the players… are trying so hard, and the spirit in the team is so good.”
Top’s publicity-shy father Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha owns the British club, but Top is hands on in running it as well as being the King Power CEO.
Leicester only narrowly survived relegation last year but Claudio Ranieri’s side have taken this season by storm with their high-energy, attack-minded approach.
Leicester’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez became the first African to be named England’s Professional Footballer’s Association player of the year on Sunday, while the prolific Vardy has netted 22 times.
The Foxes, or ‘Siamese Foxes’, are now beginning to attract fans in Thailand, where English Premier League giants Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea traditionally command a strong following.
“We have 600 people come to celebrate and enjoy to watch Leicester, the team that maybe seven years ago no one knew,” said Top.
“We try to tell Thais that you have your team and you have your second team as Leicester, so every time Leicester play please support.”
– Beer and karma –
Free beer helped draw the crowd but there was no mistaking the enthusiasm as two goals from Leonardo Ulloa, and one each from Mahrez and Marc Albrighton pushed Leicester closer to the trophy.
“We’ll be champions no problem,” enthused Auawut Job, 42, who like many Thais professed to being a new convert to Leicester mania.
“I was a Liverpool fan until three years ago, but Liverpool have gone down… all Thais will support Leicester if they win the league,” he added.
The Srivaddhanaprabha family have been widely praised for their judicious spending and appointments, which have taken Leicester to the top of the Premier League.
Top was a key voice in Ranieri’s hiring and that of former boss Nigel Pearson, who left in the close-season despite a remarkable run of games to survive relegation.
The departure came shortly after a sex tape scandal involving three young fringe players including Pearson’s son during a summer tour of Bangkok.
The mystery of Leicester’s rise is whether it has been case of luck or canny judgement or both on the part of the owners.
Thai Buddhist monks certainly think good karma helps after they were drafted in to bless the King Power Stadium pitch and hand out lucky talismans to players.
Top said of his father: “He’s a successful businessman and he tried to challenge himself to get something done.
“This is one thing that in his dreams he wanted to own the club, and he said I think two or three years before that he want the team to be a success in the Premier League, and now we are.”
He added: “As a son, I try to make the father and boss happy.”