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Ranieri's Leicester departure leaves Thailand unmoved
February 24, 2017 / 9:29 AM / 8 months ago

Ranieri's Leicester departure leaves Thailand unmoved

(Reuters) - The dismissal of Leicester City coach Claudio Ranieri has caused barely a ripple in Thailand, where even last season’s stunning Premier League title triumph for a locally-owned team failed to break traditional club loyalties.

Britain Soccer Football - Millwall v Leicester City - FA Cup Fifth Round - The New Den - 18/2/17 Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri Reuters/Dylan Martinez Livepic/File Photo

The Italian was unceremoniously sacked on Thursday after a 2-1 loss to Sevilla in the first leg of a Champions League Round of 16 tie, and with the team hovering just a point and a place above the relegation zone after 25 matches.

On the streets of Bangkok on Friday, it proved a challenge to find anyone moved by the decision, or even a Leicester City supporter.

“I don’t think Leicester City is part of the conversation,” said 34-year-old office worker and Manchester United fan Kulthida Wattana.

“Thai people see them as an example of Thais succeeding on the world stage but in terms of football, its not really anything”.

Leicester’s odds-defying success brought plenty of interest in the home country of owner and King Power duty free magnate Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha with some Thais going as far as adopting Leicester as their ‘second team’.

However, most fans remained reluctant to give up their historic loyalties in a country where the Premier League has considerably more followers than any other foreign sport.

“Most Thai people support either Manchester United or Liverpool,” said Adisorn Pheungya, a columnist and sports TV presenter in Thailand.

“Leicester only came into the conversation after King Power bought them. They boomed again last year when they achieved success but now that they are struggling, no one is talking about them anymore.”

Soccer Football - Sevilla v Leicester City - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg - Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, Seville, Spain - 22/2/17 Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri after the match Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley Livepic/File Photo

FAKE FANS

News of Raineri’s sacking made it to local news bulletins, but generally took second billing to a police standoff at a Buddhist temple.

One Leicester supporter and fan club member whose loyalties date back to before the recent success, said the Thai owners had acted disgracefully.

“I understand that their money led to promotion and the Premier League title but without Ranieri we would be nowhere either,” 36-year-old Phet Adirekul said. “At least now maybe some of the fake fans will go and support other teams.”

Leicester branded goods are on sale at King Power’s headquarters but staff there are forbidden from speaking to the media. A shop selling Leicester City merchandise in the city centre closed last year.

“If Leicester were successful for a few years then maybe they will have more fans. If they get relegated this year then the fans will move on,” said 42-year-old Liverpool supporter Amornthep Kittiwichislip.

Leicester City’s strong links to Thailand appear set to continue despite their current struggles and the country was credited with some of last year’s league success.

There is a Buddhist shrine at the side’s King Power stadium home ground and monks bless the pitch before games.

Phra Prommangkalachan, the monk who has regularly led blessings and had forecast few problems for Leicester in the Champions League, was travelling outside Bangkok and declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin/John O'Brien

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