Leicester not just about its champion football club? Here are the city's 10 Asian connections

From curry to Diwali, find out how Premier League champions Leicester City's Asian connections go beyond just their Thai owners.

Leicester City Football Club pulled off perhaps the sporting miracle of the century when they were crowned champions of the English Premier League this week with two games to spare in the gruelling 38-match season.

From being almost relegated the previous season, they defied 5,000-1 odds to win their first title in their 132-year history.

Truly, a footballing fairy tale for the club - owned by a Thai businessman since 2010 - which has also now earned new fans in Asia, particularly Thailand.

The Straits Times looks at the club's and the city's Asian links.

1. One city, many nationalities

This is England's most racially diverse big city outside London, The Financial Times said in a special report on the city.

There is no dominant racial group here, and every group is a minority.

One street, Narborough Road, has been named the most multi-national street in Britain because it has shopkeepers of 23 nationalities from four continents.

The shopkeepers hail from countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

2. Host to biggest Diwali celebration outside India

Like many parts of Britain, it has a substantial Indian population, with the added distinction of hosting the largest Diwali (Hindu Festival of Light) celebrations outside of India.

It is also known as a "Gujarati city", due to the large number of Gujarati immigrants, many of whom came by way of East Africa.

3. Ex-Curry Capital of Britain 2007

Leicester won the title of Britain's "curry capital" in 2007. The award is given to the city with the top-rated Indian cuisine, with restaurants assessed on factors such as food, atmosphere and culture.

4. Best for curry in a hurry

Masalas offers the "Best Curry Takeaway" according to the English Curry Awards last year. PHOTO: MASALAS/FACEBOOK

A Leicester eatery called Masalas in Uppingham Road scooped the "Best Curry Takeaway" prize at the English Curry Awards 2015.

What got it the prize in a country mad about its curry?

Well, Masalas put the food in a box with its own design, and also added hot towels and chocolate in the takeaway.


5. Leicester University

Leicester University has a substantial foreign Asian student intake.

Many Singaporeans have attended the college, especially since it was once one of fewer than 20 approved British universities whose law degrees were recognised in Singapore.

It was removed from Singapore's list of accredited law schools in 2015 and the change has affected this year's intake of students.

6. Leicester City FC's home ground: King Power Stadium

The stadium's name is not linked in any way to the discovery of the remains of late 15th-century's King Richard III, beneath a carpark lot in Leicester in 2012.

Since 2010, the English club has been owned by Mr Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the head of Thai duty-free retailer King Power.

A year later, Leicester's home ground was duly re-named the King Power Stadium.

7. Thai fans: Siamese Foxes

Leicester City fans taking pictures while watching the game against Manchester United on a big screen in Bangkok on Sunday, May 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

Last year, King Power had a hard time pushing Leicester City merchandise even in Thailand.

Now, the Foxes' jerseys are sold out worldwide, and even King Power has had to ask fans to order them from Britain.

BBC reported that King Power now provides free food and beer at its headquarters in Bangkok for the big games, to cater to the growing fan base in Thailand.

Their Thai fans are now affectionately known as the "Siamese Foxes".

8. Thai monks' blessings

About 10 monks from Bangkok's Wat Traimit Withayaram Woraviharn (Golden Buddha) Temple are flown to Britain to bless the players before most home games.

The Telegraph reported that the monks also chant and pray for the team at their temple in Bangkok.

Assistant Abbott Phra Prommangkalachan has said that he believes the good karma of  Leicester owner Vichai has helped.

Vichai is a regular devotee of the monk.

"It's not got anything to do with magic. It's Vichai's good deeds that help garner support from fans across the world which became the power for Leicester City Football Club," the monk told Reuters TV recently.

"I believe that all the good karma that Vichai has made will be a factor that helps Leicester to definitely win the Premier League." Indeed, it has turned out that way.

9. The Japanese factor

Shinji Okazaki celebrating after scoring against Newcastle United in March. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES VIA REUTERS

Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki has shone for the Foxes since moving from German club Mainz in June 2015. A tireless grafter who thrives down the channels, the 30-year-old left his mark with a stunning overhead kick goal in a 1-0 win over Newcastle United in March.

His exploits have reportedly led to Japanese national TV stations broadcasting all of Leicester's matches.

At the international level, he is Japan's top active goalscorer and third all-time in team history with 48 goals.

10. An Asian princess in Leicester?

Till January this year, Japanese Princess Mako of Akishino, first-born granddaughter of reigning Japanese Emperor Akihito, had studied for a Master's in Art Museum and Gallery Studies at the University of Leicester, the Leicester Mercury reported.

She had lived the life of a normal student in the East Midlands since September 2015, staying in residence halls, walking freely around the university campus and completing a two-month work experience programme at Coventry Museum.

The Imperial House of Japan also confirmed Princess Mako's presence in England and that she had finished her course and graduated in January.

Sources: BBC, Financial Times, Reuters, Telegraph, Leicester Mercury