|A phalanx of golden Buddha statues in Thailand (Damon Billian/flickr.com)|
|Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy reveals one of the secret's behind the Foxes' incredible season: Theravada Thai Buddhist monks doling out dressing room lashings (and sacred cloth).|
|Thai Buddhist monks of the Maha Nikaya school, Bangkok (sportingnews.com)|
SYNOPSIS: In the greatest upset in sports history, the tiny and insignificant Leicester City soccer team, which began with odds of winning of 5,000:1 took it all the way to the cup. Leicester City in England is elated. But everyone is asking, How did they do it? It turns out the secret is Thai Theravada Buddhist intervention via monks invited to help the team.
|Assistant abbot holds an LCFC banner adorned with sacred patterns (AFP/Getty)|
From supremely gifted players on the pitch to the tactical vision of the manager and coaching staff and the passionate support of the fans, it takes many people to win English football’s ultimate prize.
But if Leicester City beat Manchester United at Old Trafford to complete their fairy tale story conquest of the Premiership there will be one other, rather more unusual group of supporters to thank -- a collection of Buddhist monks from Thailand.
The blessings of the monks, from the Wat Traimit Withayaram Woraviharn (Golden Buddha) Temple, in Bangkok, are being credited with adding a divine element to the team’s play.
About 10 monks from the temple are flown to Britain for most home games by the club’s Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha to bless the players before the kick-off, before spending the match deep in meditation in a specially designated room at Leicester City’s King Power stadium.
Here -- at a special shrine surrounded by Buddhist statues and hangings installed by Mr. Vichai -- the monks, led by Assistant Abbott Phra Prommangkalachan, offer the players what they call “spiritual support.”
That support continues during the team’s away games, such as today’s, when the monks chant and pray for the team at their temple in Bangkok’s Chinatown district, where the Leicester’s billionaire owner has been a devotee for several years.
He has regularly led delegations of his fellow holy men, dressed in saffron robes, to bless Leicester City since Mr. Vichai, who built his fortune on a string of duty-free shops, bought the then struggling second tier outfit in 2010.
|Monks on pitch, King Power Stadium, Leicester (Matt West/BPI/REX/Shutterstock)|
“We know how Leicester are doing because the cheers and chanting rocks the room,” said Phra Prommangkalachan, 64.
“We feel the vibrations.”
“It’s obviously unusual for a football club owner to bring along Buddhist monks to games, but now everyone at LCFC is used to it.”
Alex Hylton, Mr. Vichai’s former personal match day assistant at Leicester City, said that the owner also prays in the shrine room for up to 45 minutes before each match.
“He’s clearly very devout,” he said. “It’s obviously unusual for a football club owner to bring along Buddhist monks to games, but now everyone at LCFC is used to it. It seems normal.”
The club’s growing fortunes have been closely followed back in Thailand, where the team is marketed as the Siamese Foxes and where fans, dressed in replica tops, gather during match days to watch their progress on TV at bars and restaurants.
The team’s Thai supporters are convinced that the monks have played a key role in the club’s astonishing season.
As well as praying during games, they have reportedly overseen the burial of religious images under the turf. Players and fans have also taken to wearing Buddhist amulets and talismanic cloths which have been blessed by the monks.
“Khun Vichai is a very strong and devoted Buddhist who has done many good works,” said Phra Prommangkalachan.
“His good deeds help generate support which becomes power for Leicester City Football Club. The club is benefiting from that good karma.
“His good deeds are rewarded with the good performances of Leicester City. He is also a very wise man and knows how to manage the club, bring together the team and coaches and make sure their approach is united. The result is their success.”
“We are all concentrated on a very positive force and they have seen how we can work together.”
Phra Prommangkalachan, sitting crossed-legged at the Bangkok temple, surrounded by Buddhist images, statues and iconography with banners and cloths bearing the club’s name and colors, admits that the team’s players were initially skeptical.