The late Leicester City chairman was one of the few foreign owners in the Premier League, who was truly able to grasp what his club meant to the community.
Jamie Vardy had several articles dedicated to him as he became a folklore, having started as a fifth-division footballer in England to a Premier League winner in 2016. The club, in that one historic 2015-16 season, had seen several stories of success. One of them that received the least highlight, and understandably so, was of a Thai man, who operated behind the scene.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died Saturday in a helicopter accident after watching his team draw late against West Ham United. Police investigation has revealed that five people died in the accident. While we won’t credit Vichai with a lot of credit for Leicester’s Premier League trophy, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be credited for keeping the club together.
The only press conference the man ever appeared in wasn’t after the lifting the elusive trophy, it was after his team had gained promotion to the top flight in May 2014. In that interaction, he said he wanted his team to finish in the top-five of the table and was willing to spend £180m on the team.
Aiyawatt, the club’s vice-chairman, was allowed to run the club, and Vichai’s close association with the players helped the club during difficult situations. N’Golo Kante had moved to Chelsea, and offers for England forward Jamie Vardy were coming in every day. The 60-year-old resolved that issue after the club and the player’s agent had come to an impasse. His thoughts on Vardy convinced the striker to stay where he was, and he still ripples the net at the King Power Stadium regularly.
You may not have heard this, but the late chairman was a club man through and through. He donated millions to local charities, gave away 60 season tickets to regular ticket buyers and gifted BMWs to his players after their title-winning season, happily staying away from the limelight.
He wasn’t, though, trying to ignore the important parts, staying behind the scenes. While his team and the staff were celebrating with an all-expenses-paid trip, he was laying the roadmap to a new state-of-the-art training ground worth £100m.
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When the team won the trophy, he wrote, “Our spirit exists because of the love we share for each other and the energy it helps to create, both on and off the pitch”. He continued, “And in the years to come, it will continue to be our greatest asset.” He must have seen the future, with his side continuing the good work and becoming the regulars in arguably the most-hard fought leagues in the world.
His proximity is also understood by the fact that he was invited by Vardy to his wedding, something not regular within the daily affairs of world football. “In Khun Vichai, the world has lost a great man. A man of kindness, generosity and a man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and those he so successfully led,” the club said in a statement.
“Leicester City was a family under his leadership. It is as a family that we will grieve his passing and maintain the pursuit of a vision for the Club that is now his legacy.”
The words will stay forever, for a man who’d stay forever. He’ll be remembered. Leicester may have a new owner in the future, may name their stadium differently, may win several titles in the future, but they’ll always remember their first Premier League title at the King Power, with his company’s name written all over it. The King gave his Power, and the throne will always be indebted to the man.
Long live, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.