#KhunVichai: Another Cinderella Story for the Foxes After Death of Chairman
On Saturday, October 27 of last year, Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was killed in a tragic accident in front of Leicester City Football Club’s stadium. After a technical malfunction, a helicopter carrying the billionaire crashed in front of King Power Stadium, killing all five men aboard–including the pilot. Vichai was owner and chairman of Leicester City–nicknamed “the Foxes.” Vichai has been the owner of the club since 2010. He made earned his billionaire status from owning King Power Duty Free, the leading Thai company for “Duty-Free” shops in airports.
Unlike most of foreign owners of soccer clubs, who are seen as distant and there only for business, Vichai was passionate and proud to be the owner of the Foxes. Known for being such a fanatic for British soccer, Vichai attended every home game for his side. Since soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and England being the country holding the most popular league, soccer is a global pastime for many people. Many Asian billionaires devotes countless sums of money to teams that they purchase. There are nine Asian owners in the Premier League, including six majority owners who are multi-billionaires. Besides Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, there are Asian owners such as Vincent Tan of Cardiff City Football Club, Gao Jisheng of Southampton Football Club, Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Manchester City Football Club, and Guo Guangchang of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club.
Although he only bought the club back when only the working class and middle class was interested in the club–that class was the majority of the population of Leicester, a city of about 45,000 people–but he saw lots of potential in the special club.
In 2010, when the “art” of soccer started to change, many teams and players started to be more focused in entertaining the audience rather than just playing the sport. Teams started to play more flattering and eye-catching soccer, including many plays involving lots of one-touch passing–receiving the ball and releasing it the one’s teammate in one fluid motion–shots both long and close ranged shots, and controversial celebrations and outfits off the field. Players started to turn into celebrities, and even the second tier leagues had a lot of television time.
Nevertheless, Leicester City stuck to its traditional style of play, dating back to 1890s, which many around the globe referred to as the “English style of football play.” The Foxes always tried to score as many goals as possible, and usually without much of the fancy footwork or passing sequences that usually come to mind now when one hears the word “soccer.” Leicester City typically let their opponent play with the ball a little bit, before stealing it and sending it up the field to let their strikers–the people who are at the front of the attack–run for the ball. Almost always the Foxes had fast strikers, such as Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki, and they almost always succeed in receiving the ball in front of the opponent’s goal.
After scoring an easy goal, the cycle continues until the 90 minutes are up; and that is how Leicester City played their games. Vichai saw the advantage that came with buying a club that would shock others with their unique style of play.
Renowned for his kindness to everybody and vast charity work, Vichai was known as the man who led the Foxes to glory. Players such as goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and striker Jamie Vardy had known him for almost 10 years, and greatly missed the businessman when he died. Schmeichel, who was believed to be very close to Vichai, said that “he could never wipe the memory away of rushing to the helicopter after he saw what happened.” He was there when the crash took place, and he was there for hours at Vichai’s memorial outside King Power Stadium.
After being crowned the champions of the second tier league in England in the 2013/2014 season, they were promoted into the English Premier League for the 2014/2015 season for the first time in then 10 years. A year after that, in 2016, they won the English Premier League with captain Wes Morgan and leading scorer Jamie Vardy guiding them to victory. Vardy achieved an impressive individual feat, being the only player to score at least one goal in 11 consecutive Premier League matches. The entire footballing world was stunned. Advertisements were made for Leicester, a team that most people could not even pronounce before, sponsorships were signed, documentaries and films were made, and even Jamie Vardy potato chip had a flavor named after him.
Dubbed “Football’s Cinderella Story,” Leicester City continued playing well and used their newly earned money to buy new players to strengthen their roster. It was called the Cinderella story because it was similar to “the ugly duckling” type of story. Leicester City, a small industrial city full of working and middle class people, was the most unlikely team to win the Premier League, a victory which only six out of the 49 clubs have achieved. About half of the time, the teams that are newly promoted into the Premier League from the English Football League (EFL) Championship get relegated back to where they came from at the end of the season. Not only did the Foxes survive in the English Premier League, but they beat all the other teams who have been there for decades to the title.
Although they did not do as well in the 2016/2017 campaign–arguably because a certain midfielder N’Golo Kante, who was a driving force in their success, was bought by Chelsea Football Club for £36 million. They moved on and sacked their manager–head coach–Claudio Ranieri, who was their manager when they won the Premier League in 2016. After three caretaker–not permanent–managers, the club finally settled upon former Southampton manager Claude Puel.
After the death of chairman Vichai, Leicester City has had a recent run of success. Being considered the “giant killers” of the league, they surely did not disappoint in their recent games. Unbeaten in 9 of the 12 Premier League games since the death of their owner, including six wins, the Foxes are on track once again for another Cinderella-esque story.
They have defeated the likes of Manchester City, who are the reigning champions and the only team to have defeated first-place Liverpool; Chelsea, the first club to have beaten Manchester City; Tottenham Hotspur, The current third place holders; and Everton, the other “giant killers” in the Premier League. During one of the most competitive, tight, intense league campaigns in the last few years, the Foxes sit in seventh place, behind another team who are playing extremely well, Manchester United. United are under their new caretaker manager and former player, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, after sacking their former manager of three years Jose Mourinho. Leicester City are in front of Watford, a team who have been climbing up the table this year.
Vichai’s son, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, has proposed that the club build a statue in honor of the late chairman. Currently, they have made a petition that both the public and Leicester City staff can sign. Following this surprising burst of good soccer, many fans–Leicester City‘s and others alike–are anxious to see what is to come from the miraculous club with a fairytale story.
[I was not able to insert quotes or opinions from people who know soccer, and also who know Leicester City, and what they think about it in the article. I sent a survey just to see if anybody knows anything regarding this topic, then I planned to personally interview them. Nobody has responded with a reasonable answer. So, this has no connection whatsoever to C&C. Sorry.]
Sources: Wikipedia, ESPN, King Power, Sky Sports, Fox Sports Asia, The Sun, and IOL