Written by: Siddesh Iyer Follow @Sid10RedDevil
We have all heard of Black Friday, an infamous yet extremely famous day when the stock markets took a plunge for the worst. The 27th of October 2018 will go down in history as probably “Sad Saturday”, a day which harboured one of the most tragic and horrific incidents that the football world has had to endure in recent times. And, at the epicentre of this tragedy were the Leicester City FC family, a group of people who helped the world realize the fact that hard work and dedication is the panacea to the most mammoth of tasks at hand when they miraculously won the Premier League title in 2016. Behind all the slick style of play on the pitch, was a man who actually made the Leicester City players and coaching staff believe that they were capable of pulling off this herculean task; I’m talking about the Chairman of Leicester City, the Late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who tragically lost his life along with four other people on board his private helicopter, when it crashed in the parking area of the King Power Stadium in Leicester on Saturday. This was right after he had attended Leicester City’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United in the Premier League.
When Leicester City were languishing in the Championship, in debt under the ownership of Milan Mandaric in 2010, hardly anybody would have thought that in a period of 6-7 years, they could earn a promotion back to the English top flight. If returning to the top tier of English football was a surprise then, leaving the “so-called” Top 6 red-faced and winning the Premier League was a work of true genius. Kun Vichai as he’s fondly remembered, was a master tactician behind the stage with some astute investments and a true source of motivation for all the players and staff at the club.
The scene of the then manager Claudio Ranieri standing alongside Andrea Bocelli for the final day opera performance in honour of the Champions Leicester City makes one admire in awe even today. In a capitalist and profit-driven world where most owners tend to use the football clubs as just profit-making machines and completely negate the footballing aspect of it; where fans face a situation where all the passion is sapped out of the game, a chairman like Kun Vichai was a glaring exception. The motivation, the passion, the joy and a family feeling around the club were central to his plans at Leicester City. A millionaire from Thailand taking over an English club with rich traditions, sounds like a totally profit-driven move and a disaster in the making from past experiences, doesn’t it? But then, Kun Vichai wasn’t part of a sample derived from the same old population of capitalist millionaires, he was a visionary leader whose actions and tact in his work did most of the talking while he rarely had public conferences and other appearances. However, there was a certain aura that spread across the entire LCFC community like wildfire. His first contact with the club was in the form of a shirt sponsorship affiliation by King Power and later, after becoming the chairman of the club in February 2011, Kun Vichai was one of the most proactive and strategic thinkers the club had ever had.
From free beers and donuts for the Foxes’ fans during home games at the King Power Stadium to subsidizing away travel, the owners have always been there for the fans and respected the needs and opinions that the club’s fans have expressed. The fifth richest man in Thailand, Kun Vichai was also a pioneer in movements regarding various social issues and charity back in his homeland.
Any literary piece is incapable of capturing what Kun Vichai managed to achieve with Leicester City. Playing in some of Europe’s biggest stadiums at the pinnacle of European football i.e. the UEFA Champions League was the ultimate realization of Kun Vichai’s footballing dream. Born as Vichai Raksriaksorn on 4th April 1958, the surname of Srivaddhanaprabha was a title granted to him by King Bhumibol in 2013. It means “the light of progressive glory” and Kun Vichai has certainly done justice to this title by inspiring millions to strive and work hard towards achieving the impossible. As I conclude my tribute to this gem of a chairman and probably one of the greatest football club owners ever, I can only say that his sudden and tragic demise leaves me and the entire football fraternity grief-stricken and stunned.
It is an immense loss that the football world has to come to terms with, and we, at All Out Football stand in solidarity with Leicester City FC and the late chairman’s family in these difficult times. Kun Vichai’s inspiring aura is evergreen and still prevails in the fabric of the club and will surely propel the club towards greater heights in the future. Stay Strong Leicester City.
featured image credit Wales Online