Football

Leicester celebrate with Bocelli and Siam Foxes

Leicester's title-winning party now rolls on to Chelsea and a title parade on May 16, with manager Claudio Ranieri overwhelmed by a memorable day that included world-famous tenor Andrea Bocelli's singing next to the club boss before kick-off against Everton yesterday morning (Singapore time).

"It felt good," Ranieri said at the end of a memorable day. "It was amazing when the maestro Andrea Bocelli sung 'Nessun Dorma'.

"Andrea called me and said, 'I want to come there, there is something magical in Leicester'. He chose this day and it was brilliant.''

"I want to say thank you to all our fans. In the bad moments, like when we were losing 2-0, they helped us fight back so many times, at home and away.

"And, of course, the more important person: the owner. Without the owner, this wouldn't be possible, (without) that ambition."

THAILAND'S TEAM

As England salutes Leicester, 9,000 kilometres away on a sweltering night in Bangkok, celebrating fans held aloft a blue banner that read "Leicester City - Thailand's team."

Some 1,500 supporters gathered to cheer the unlikely heroics of the team in an area the size of a football pitch outside the headquarters of King Power, the duty-free franchise that has made Leicester's owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha one of Thailand's richest men.

"I feel very happy that Thais can create something great and that Leicester can make people more familiar with Thais," said Khampee Jirawinit, a pharmacist from northern Thailand.

"I just love the way Leicester play. I love Riyad Mahrez because he plays like me."

Even with the team's local owner, Thai fans had taken little notice of unfashionable Leicester before this season, preferring to follow established names such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

The "Siam Foxes" support base has ballooned with the team's success, however. The Leicester City Thai Facebook page had nearly 620,000 "likes" on Saturday, compared with 5,000-6,000 at the start of the season.

Many Thai fans have adopted Leicester as their second team.

Some fans were draped in Leicester flags bearing ancient Buddhist script and blessed by a Thai monk, Phra Prommangkalachan.

Vichai is a devotee of the 63-year-old assistant to the abbot of Bangkok's Traimitr Temple and has flown the monk to Britain regularly to bless the team and their stadium.

Thai fans believe the Buddhist blessings and amulets he has given the team have helped them win the title.

"The good-luck charms are something that the football players can hold on to. They have played a part in them becoming champions," said Natthapat Pornpiwat, who has worked for King Power for 18 years.

The flags, which the monk blesses and gives away, are changing hands on the private market for nearly 10,000 baht ($386) each, according to Thai media.

Since Leicester won the title, the temple has become a pilgrimage site for fans, and other sports teams have also sought the monk's blessing.

- Wire Services.

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