WHAT a difference a year makes – nearly 12 months ago, Leicester City Football Club (LCFC) arrived in Thailand for their summer tour barely escaping relegation from the Premier League.
Their last visit ended on a sour note after three players were embroiled in an embarrassing sex scandal involving racist comments. The players – James Pearson, Tom Hopper, and Adam Smith – subsequently had their contracts with the club canceled.
Pearson’s father, Nigel, who was the club’s manager at the time, was also sacked two weeks later, which led to the appointment of Claudio Ranieri as his replacement.
— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 18, 2016
On Wednesday, the team made a triumphant return as Premiership champions, beating the 5000-to-1 odds bookies had placed on them at the start of the season.
Apparently all is forgiven, as the players and staff were given a warm welcome in Bangkok, complete with crowds of enthusiastic fans (known as “Siamese Foxes”) and press.
This time, the team was told to be on their best behavior, as LCFC vice chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, son of club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, warned the players to resist the infamous temptations of Thailand’s nightlife.
“They are massive now and they want to say thank you to the Thai fans,” he said, according to PR Week.
“The players need privacy as well but I’ve talked to them and they know they need to treat everything well.”
Star players Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Danny Drinkwater were not part of the visiting contingent, with striker Vardy and midfielder Drinkwater away to prepare for England’s squad in next month’s European Championship, while Algeria international Mahrez has reportedly been approached by several European top clubs, reported the Bangkok Post.
Vichai calls the team “a family”, and is already making plans to expand it in preparation for the Champions League, as Leicester City are in the market for three or four players to strengthen its ranks.
“I have spent most of my time in the U.K. in order to be with them. When there are problems, we talk and help fix them. We have been more like a family,” he said.
This is Leicester City’s first English Premier League title in the club’s 132-year history.
The club and players will have two days in Bangkok, visiting temples and the Grand Palace, before culminating in an open-top bus parade through the capital.
Additional reporting by Associated Press