A sex tape of a racially charged orgy in a Bangkok hotel was a public relations catastrophe for Thai-owned Leicester City, but it proved an unlikely turning point in their journey to the top of the English Premier League.
The offending video featured three young players including James Pearson, son of then-manager Nigel Pearson, engaging in explicit acts with a group of Thai women in a Bangkok hotel.
Filmed by the players, the footage of the sniggering men was soon revealed by the British tabloid press, shocking the public with the players’ crude remarks, including calling one of the Thai women a “slit-eye.”
While the sex tape caused outrage, it also ushered in a new era for Leicester as it paved the way for the arrival of manager Claudio Ranieri, who has taken the club to the brink of the Premier League title.
After the scandal in May last year, the players were promptly sacked and pressure mounted on Pearson — a manager who already had a bruising relationship with the British press.
At the start of July last year, Pearson also exited due to what the club simply described as “fundamental differences in perspective.”
Critics lined up to condemn the owners, billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his son Aiyawatt, also known as “Top,” for a decision that came after Pearson had steered the team from the bottom of the table to 14th.
Former star striker Gary Lineker at the time said Person’s sacking showed that the Thai owners “clearly don’t know what they’re doing.”
However, a fortnight later the experienced Italian Ranieri arrived, to little fanfare, and quietly set to work on what would become a stunning season.
“The hotel incident brought the hero,” said Satit “Bigjah” Krikul, Thailand’s best known television soccer pundit, referring to Ranieri’s appointment. “Of course the incident damaged the reputation of the Leicester team and affected Thailand a bit... but it is Thai style that this kind of news blows over.”
The owners have stayed silent on the sex scandal and even Bangkok’s police, who had threatened to prosecute the women involved for indecency, now say they have no record of the incident.
Despite Thailand’s raunchy nightlife and reputation, sex is a taboo subject in what remains a largely conservative country.
When asked if the club would return for a triumphant Thai tour this year, Top replied with a terse, “No.”
The genial Ranieri immediately presented a calmer, kinder face to the public and brought a wealth of top-level soccer experience.
He inherited a team on a good run, bolstered the squad with some shrewd signings and embarked on the unlikeliest of title charges.
At the start of this season the Foxes were widely tipped for relegation, with British bookmakers offering 5,000-1 odds against a league victory.
One of Ranieri’s first tasks was to issue a heavy fine to striker Jamie Vardy, who was caught on camera calling an Asian man a “Jap” three times at a casino.
Vardy’s “mistake” was forgiven by Ranieri, and he went on to power this year’s title bid with 22 league goals.
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