Bangkok buzzing as champs Leicester arrive

English Premier League champions, Leicester City Football Club, arrives in Bangkok for celebrations after their fairytale success.
Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, manager Claudio Ranieri and forward Shinji Okazaki greet the press with a traditional Thai "wai" gesture at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok yesterday.
Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, manager Claudio Ranieri and forward Shinji Okazaki greet the press with a traditional Thai "wai" gesture at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BANGKOK • Thai fans mobbed newly crowned English Premier League champions Leicester City as they arrived in Bangkok yesterday for a publicity blitz after their fairytale title triumph.

The Foxes also hoped to banish the memory of a sex tape scandal that marred a visit a year ago to the homeland of their billionaire owner.

Scores of fans - dubbed the "Siamese Foxes" - and a frenzied local media pack swarmed the champions at Bangkok's main airport yesterday morning, greeting them with requests for selfies and chants of "Leicester City, Leicester City!"

Manager Claudio Ranieri, captain Wes Morgan, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and forward Shinji Okazaki led the team, beaming as they made a choreographed Thai bow - or "wai" - with garlands of jasmine around their necks.

Football-mad Thailand has fallen for Leicester after the astonishing success story of a club with deep links to the kingdom.

The Foxes are owned by Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Ahead of the tour, club vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, Vichai's son, warned his players to be on their best behaviour in a kingdom whose wild nightlife belies a deep-seated social conservatism.

A tour last summer ended in a public relations disaster for the King Power family. Then, three young players including the son of former manager Nigel Pearson, were sacked after a racially charged sex tape featuring local women was leaked to British media.

Manager Pearson was dismissed a few weeks later, paving the way for Ranieri to take charge and steer the club towards sporting glory.

"They (the players) are massive now and they want to say thank you to the Thai fans," Aiyawatt told reporters. "The players need privacy as well, but I've talked to them and they know they need to treat everything well."

He added that Leicester will be busy in the close season, when they are likely to buy three or four players.

"We will have some amazing players before the transfer market closes, but we're not going to spend crazy money and ruin everything we have created," he said.

Ranieri, meanwhile, joked that it was time for him to boost the culinary incentives from pizza to lobster for his players to keep clean sheets. The Italian has said he had rewarded the team each match they did not concede a goal with pizza paid out off his own pocket.

Asked how he will reward a clean sheet next season, he said: "Maybe a lunch or dinner, we have to increase or something. Lobster maybe."

But "only one (for the team)", he added in his typically banterous style.

The Foxes will have two days of press and publicity duties in Thailand. The highlight will be an open-top bus tour of Bangkok today.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'Bangkok buzzing as champs Leicester arrive'. Print Edition | Subscribe