Already on the outskirts of the city you can see that for the local community Leicester City is much more and more important than just a football club. Entering the city from the south, we see a mural depicting the owner of Leicester City who died in a helicopter crash – Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – and the club’s crest.
A few kilometers away, in the very center, there are another two. One shows a tiger and Buddhist symbols that are inextricably linked with the faith of Srivaddhanaprabha, and a fox and the coat of arms of Leicester City, the icons of the city. The second shows Jamie Vardy, the striker and one of the best scorers in the club’s history, without whom the recent successes would not have happened.
Jamie Vardy’s mural Konrad Ferszter
And there were plenty of those in the past 13 years. And it is not only about the England championship in 2016, with which a club from a city with a population of less than 400,000 shocked the country and embarrassed the local croissants. “During that time, more has happened in the city and the club than in history,” laughs Ryan Hubbard, a Leicester City fan raised here.
The Taj who changed the history of the club
– Until recently, people from here had no reason to be proud. Nobody had reason to admit they were from Leicester. The city didn’t have a rich history, adds Hubbard.
History, thanks to Leicester City, began to change in 2010. It was then that the Asian Football Investments consortium managed by Srivaddhanaprabha bought the club from Milan Mandaric for around 39 million pounds. Just two years earlier, Leicester City had relegated to League One, the third tier in England.
– The previous owner could not manage the club. He brought in weak, cheap players who did not give quality. Srivaddhanaprabha not only raised the sports level, but also built a dedicated community around the club, which is its great strength today, says Hubbard.
Srivaddhanaprabha was more than just a businessman and club owner. Unlike his counterparts from the largest clubs, who are unavailable and unattainable on a daily basis, he was simply one of the city’s inhabitants, a member of the local community. The stay in England changed him. While in Thailand they knew little about Srivaddhanaprabha, in Leicester he had no secrets from anyone.
He was involved in charity actions and financed local hospitals from his own resources. He also subsidized the local university, next to which there are the two murals in the city center. Srivaddhanaprabha was also one of the fans. He sponsored annual passes for the most devoted fans, and on his birthday he met with them outside the stadium, inviting them for cake and beer. Before away matches he organized breakfast for fans. “Everyone here treated him like one of us,” says Hubbard.
Srivaddhanaprabha tragically died in October 2018. A helicopter flying with him crashed into the parking lot next to the stadium. It was all an hour after the league game against West Ham United. At the site of the tragedy, right next to King Power Stadium, there is now a garden dedicated to his memory.
Plaque commemorating the owner of Leicester City Konrad Ferszter
The extraordinary story of Richard III
Srivaddhanaprabha built a club that recovered from financial problems, was promoted to the Premier League, barely stayed in it, a year later he sensationally won it, played in the Champions League and won the FA Cup for the first time last season. But Leicester also has another hero whose story is romantically intertwined with the club’s performance.
– In 2015, when we were still at the bottom of the Premier League table, struggling to maintain, we witnessed the historic funeral of the former King of England, Richard III, whose remains lay over 500 years in a parking lot. An event that the whole world talked about changed Leicester. Suddenly people felt proud to be from this small town. You really felt that this atmosphere has also transferred to the club and the team. It was a very symbolic moment, says Hubbard.
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Why symbolic? The second funeral of Richard III took place on March 26, 2015. In the first game after this event, Leicester City won 2-1 at home, interrupting a series of nine games without a league win. The team followed the blow, won six out of seven matches and miraculously stayed in the Premier League. In the following season, she was a sensation and won the championship, although bookmakers estimated her chances at 1: 5000.
– The story of finding the remains of Richard III is extraordinary. Nobody expected anyone to find them. Historians have claimed that his body was thrown into the river. However, careful research has shown otherwise. Everything that happened after the official funeral was an abstraction. It’s a story for a book. Maybe someday I’ll even write it myself – smiles Hubbard.
The story of Ryszard III is part of the history of the city and the club’s success. Today, among others, a street in the city center or a large pub.
Wasilewski part of the craziest years
The best years of Leicester City were closely watched and experienced by two Polish players – the current Legia player Bartosz Kapustka and Marcin Wasilewski. While the first in the club failed, the second is still mentioned here. – The fans loved him! says Hubbard.
Although Wasilewski is not in murals in the city, and gadgets with him are no longer available in the club shop, Leicester City fans still consider him a hero. The former Polish representative joined the club in the fall of 2013 on a free transfer after his contract with Anderlecht expired. Wasilewski quickly became an important figure of the team, which in the 2013/14 season won promotion to the Premier League after 10 years.
However, the role of the Pole in the club decreased from year to year. While Wasilewski contributed to the promotion and wonderful maintenance in the Premier League, in the championship season he only played four matches in the league. The following year he appeared in it only once. The two years in which Wasilewski was the defensive force of Leicester City were enough for fans to remember him as a hero to this day. This could be experienced a few weeks ago in Warsaw, when English fans of the club sang songs about Wasilewski in the stadium and in the city.
– How do I remember “Wasyla”? Big, strong, relentless, devoted to the club. He played like a typical English defender. He was not afraid of sharp duels, he picked up the ball with spectacular tackles. His style can be compared to what Steve Walsh, the legend of Leicester City, showed on the pitch. The fans here love this type of defender, Hubbard recalls.
And he adds: – I remember a game against Tottenham at King Power Stadium. Wasilewski took the ball from Harry Kane so hard that he received an ovation from the entire stadium! The fans probably reacted similarly only when Wasilewski scored the first goal in the Premier League. Even though we lost 3-1 to Manchester United, that was a lot to talk about. It was the first goal of the Pole in the Premier League in eight thousand days. Earlier, Robert Warzycha hit for Everton.
– To this day fans remember about “Wasyl”. It happens that they sing a song about him. Respect gained not only how he presented himself on the pitch, but also off it. When he wasn’t playing, which we didn’t quite understand, he never complained and he worked hard. When he entered the field, he gave his best. He has earned tremendous respect here. And he was part of the craziest years of this club. Nobody can take it from him – concludes Hubbard.
Legia will want to collect points from the proud hosts on Thursday in Leicester. In the 5th round of the Europa League, the Polish champions will fight to stop the series of defeats. In Warsaw they won 1-0, in the group C table they are in third place – Leicester is one point ahead.