Football: 'Good karma' at heart of Leicester story that's winning fans worldwide

Thai monk Phra Prommangkalachan, holding a banner with Leicester City's crest in his temple in Bangkok, has been making regular visits to the Foxes' King Power Stadium to give his blessings to the players.
Thai monk Phra Prommangkalachan, holding a banner with Leicester City's crest in his temple in Bangkok, has been making regular visits to the Foxes' King Power Stadium to give his blessings to the players.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • When Gary Lineker called Leicester City's implausible attempt on the Premier League title "quite possibly the most unlikely triumph in the history of team sport", the world did not accuse the Leicester-born former England striker of bias or parochialism or having had one pint too many.

Instead, they jumped on a plane and flocked to the King Power Stadium. This fairy tale has gone global.

In the press box on Monday was a presenter from South American television who said this astonishing story is captivating audiences in Chile and Colombia.

In Leonardo Ulloa's home town in Argentina, they are asking how to buy Leicester shirts.

There was the reporter from France Football, out to bring the real-life David-and-Goliath tale back to readers "who love this story like no other in football, it's unique, especially in a world dominated by money."

Bored by Paris Saint-Germain winning the domestic league with eight games to play, his readers are eager to see if the impossible can happen in the English league.

And then there was the row of reporters from Japan who had the best tale of all to send home, when Shinji Okazaki leapt into the cold air, contorting himself for a stunning first-half bicycle kick.

The gathering, growing fascination with Leicester carried all the way back to Tokyo, and far beyond.

The players come out to that hunting horn, a local club which still holds their roots dear even if owned by a Thai billionaire. But the greatest compliment is that everyone, from all corners of the planet, wants to feel part of an unfolding drama that feels so precious, so rare as well as so unexpected.

Lineker wrote in his piece: "They are on the edge of sporting immortality. I don't think I have ever wanted something to happen more in sport in my entire life."

But, if you believe it is just gritty and direct football that have hoisted Leicester to the top of the table, Thai monk Phra Prommangkalachan will correct you.

"Good karma is the key," says the 64-year-old.

For the last three years, he and half a dozen fellow Buddhist monks have been making regular trips to the club, owned by Thai duty-free magnate Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, to bless the pitch and hand out lucky talismans to the players.

"I hang some amulets on their necks and I gave them fabric talismans," Phra said at a temple in Bangkok."I'm not sure if they understood, but they knew that it would bring them luck.

"(Vichai) brought monks there to pray for auspiciousness and luck in the game, for the management team and the players."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline ''Good karma' at heart of Leicester story that's winning fans worldwide'. Print Edition | Subscribe