Football’s Crazy Rich Asians – Part 1: Tragedy at Leicester City, England

Nov 7, 2018

by Charles Lim

 

He was the most successful Asian owner of a top notch professional football club in England. To Filipinos, however, and even to a majority of the Filipino football community he was still an unknown, until tragedy struck on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at the King Power Stadium in Leicester City, England.

 

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha with Leicester City Manager Claudio Ranieri and their 2016 Premier League-Trophy

 

The Thai owner of EPL 2016 Champion Leicester CityVichai Srivaddhanaprabha, 60 , died with two of his staff and the pilot and his friend when the helicopter they were in crashed into the car park shortly after taking off long after a regular home game of the English Premier League (EPL). 

 

The profound grief and shock that engulfed the premier league team, the entire City of Leicester and this great footballing nation were beyond one’s imagination. Tens of thousands of home fans visited King Power Stadium in the ensuing days to pay their respects, the city went into mourning, British royalty and football greats from Europe to Asia to the Americas and Africa expressed their deepest, heartfelt sorrows.

 

Vichai holds the Premier League trophy with his son, Aiyawatt, alongside members of his family. (Getty Images)

 

Vichai was a Thai billionaire of Chinese descent and ranked third richest in the Kingdom with a net worth of USD4.9 B. He was Owner and Chairman of King Power Duty Free in Thailand who had meticulously built his fortune and empire through this retail business.

 

His other business interests include Accor’s Pullman Hotels in Thailand and Thai Air Asia.

 

Like most Asians (Filipinos excluded, sigh), the love for football was eminent in Vichai. With his vast wealth and the passion for football, he paid 39 million English pounds for Leicester City Football Club in 2010. It was rumored that he was greatly influenced by former Thai Prime Minister, Takshin Shinawatra who as a one-time owner of the top club, Manchester City. 

 

Vichai holds the 2016 English Premier League championship trophy during their victory parade in Leicester City

 

Leicester rapidly gained promotion to the Premier League in 2014 from the Championship Division and in 2016, against 5,000 to 1 odds, won the English Premier League. They did this in grand fashion, brushing aside the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool among others in a fairy tale league run.

 

One does not have to guess how this great achievement sealed the close ties between Vichai and Leicester City. As a true philanthropist, he donated to charities in both Thailand and in Leicester. Vichai was bestowed an honorary Doctors of Laws from the University of Leicester in 2016.

 

Vichai (center) with the 2016 English Premier League Championship Tropjy & Leicester City players and coaching staff

 

The entire Leicester team and club officials traveled to Bangkok to pay their last respects and attend the funeral of Vichai, the boss, straight from a highly emotional EPL match against Cardiff which they won 1-nil.

 

My admiration for this individual, now gone, led me to discover that there are at least half a dozen more crazy rich Asians who are present owners of football clubs in Europe. 

 

General view of tributes left outside Leicester City’s King Power stadium, after Thai businessman & club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and 4 others people perished as their chopper crashed shortly after it took off following their last home match. (Craig Brough, Action Images via Reuters)

They may not have success stories or accomplishments like Vichai’s written in the clubs’ annals, yet but their passion for the most popular sport in the world and their true grit in consummating their business successes in their home country with harnessing a dream of football glory in elite leagues is most admired.(to be continued)

 

Charles Lim is one crazy Asian football enthusiast who runs a PR consultancy in the Philippines. He went to school in England and worked in several Asean countries and is now a leading force in advocacy for sports tourism in the country.   Email: charles.selrahco@gmail.com                  

 

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