English Premier League champions Leicester City paid a visit to Bangkok’s glittering Grand Palace on Thursday and signed a well-wishing book for the country’s revered monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The 88-year-old Thai king ascended the throne 70 years ago and is the world’s longest-reigning monarch, but various ailments have kept him in hospital for a year.
The squad, led by manager Claudio Ranieri and captain Wes Morgan, did not meet the king but gathered with thousands of tourists at one of Bangkok’s top spots for visitors.
The Thai-owned club are on an end-of-season tour to celebrate their improbable ascendancy to the top of the Premier League following a campaign they started as 5000-1 outsiders for the title but ended as champions by a 10-point margin.
Billionaire club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who led the party to the Grand Palace, said on Wednesday that he hoped the lessons learned by Leicester in their stunning season could serve to help Thailand’s national team to a similar success.
“We want to help Thailand go to the World Cup,” said Vichai, who bought the club in 2010.
“Thailand can be at the top, just like Leicester City.”
While at the Grand Palace, Vichai placed the Premier League trophy on a flower-decked table in front of an alter dedicated to the king, flanked by his son Aiyawatt and Ranieri.
Football is hugely popular in the Southeast Asian nation but Thailand have had little success on the world stage.
Thailand have never qualified for a World Cup but are one of the remaining 12 Asian teams competing for four spots at the next tournament in Russia 2018.
The duty free franchise that has made Vichai one of Thailand’s richest man is named King Power, in a reference to King Bhumibol.
It is also the name of Leicester’s home ground in Britain’s Midlands after his company bought the naming rights in 2011 before buying the stadium outright two years later.
The team will later hold a victory parade in central Bangkok.