The main motto promoted by the Thai tourism department is “Amazing Thailand”. The year 2016 was indeed amazing for our country, but none so surprising, especially in the area of sports, than the first place finish of Leicester City in the Premier Football League. The previous year Leicester had finished in 14th place and the odds that were quoted before the season began was 5,000-1. In fact, Leicester had never won such a title in the 110 years of their existence (The Chicago Cubs baseball team had not won the World Series in 71 years, but they were only 10-1 odds).
Leicester City is owned by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, a Thai billionaire businessman who not only relies on his coach and players, but seeks to gain extra support from a particular Buddhist monk. Chao Khun Thongchai and seven other monks were flown often to England to bless the team before they entered the pitch. The Bangkok Post wrote, “Despite being a central figure in Leicester City’s remarkable success this season, Chao Khun Thongchai has little interest in what happens on the pitch — in fact he barely even understands the rules. ‘I will meditate during the match. I will concentrate and say prayers for the team. I will send them positive energy,” the senior monk said. ‘I won’t get excited about the result as I have to stay calm and neutral in order to send my blessings.’” This monk gave a gold fabric talisman with ancient Khmer writing called “Never Lose” to all the Leicester players, a lucky charm that is now being referred to as the Leicester talisman.
Suffice to say, Leicester’s success has only heightened Thailand’s interest in football which should serve as a good reminder to pray for all the sport oriented ministries that seek to use football as a bridge into the lives of Thai young people. The Sattha Sports Ministry, supported by OMF is one such outreach tool that seeks to give the true bless of the gospel by both playing games and teaching skills (see blog “Sattha Sports Ministry for more details)