Sports / Soccer

Leicester to train young Chinese players, Thai vice chairman

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-05-16 11:23

LONDON - Newly-crowned English Premier League champions Leicester will train Chinese in their academy and "do everything they can" to help China improve its game, the club's vice chairman said.

In an interview with Xinhua at his London home, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the son of billionaire club owner and chairman Vichai, was proud of his Chinese ancestry and can even speak a few words of mandarin.

"I love China. My grandfather was Chinese and I love you. Thank you," he said in Chinese.

Aiyawatt admitted Leicester has been seeking Chinese players for the team.

"I flied to China many times with our scouts and football director to see possible players from China," he said.

Leicester have spotted a player from Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande, but there is a long way to go before signing him.

"We are still developing how we can deal with the work permit," he said. "Maybe, maybe, if we can. It also depends on himself and his club. There are many factors we have to concern."

"We love to have a Chinese player. They have more potential," he added.

Aiyawatt said that under a project created two years ago Leicester will bring 15 or 16 Chinese players for a two-year training program. And hopefully, some of them will rise to play in Leicester or other English clubs.

"We will send scouting team to China to bring the boys to Leicester," he said. "They will stay here for two and a half years to study English and football.

"If you want to be successful, you need to leave your hometown, challenge yourself and change the behavior of thinking. To stay away from hometown, they can learn from other players, culture and develop a lot.

"Some boys from Thailand are already there under that kind of project. If the project happens in China, I am sure we can find 11 players from one billion people. In 10 years, there will be more than 100 players to play in Leicester."

He added the youngsters must be 16 years old and after two years they can choose to stay or return to China.

"If they go back to the Chinese league, they will develop their league for sure. If they have the talent, they can play at England or Europe," he said.

Leicester's win in the Premier League has inspired teams like China and Aiyawatt believes China can qualify for the World Cup if they do it right.

"My father, the owner, has Chinese, I have Chinese, my grandfather is Chinese," he said. "We love to improve football for Thailand for sure. It is our homeland. But for China, we will do everything we can to help. We have to pay back everything for that."

Aiyawatt claimed Leicester will tap into China's vast market and create an academy in the world's most populous country. "It will be nice. We will do it one day," he said.

To foster the cooperation with China, Leicester have already had a Chinese in the management.

Liu Xilai, a Chinese businessman, has been a vice chairman of Leicester since 2012. "Mr. Liu Xilai is a good friend of my father. We shared the future plan like academy in China and in Asia. I know Mr. Liu can help us a lot. My father said you can come and help to promote (the project)."

Rumors have it that Chinese companies are interested in buying the relegated Aston Villa and Aiyawatt warned that Chinese investors need to be very careful.

"For us, we love football and we love to develop our brand, but sometimes it takes a lot of time to get the return," he saud. "The value is going crazy now, you have to use a lot of money.

"You have to invest at the right moment, the right time. You have to understand the league, the players, you have to check everything first."

Aiyawatt, a Manchester United fan since seven years old, had never dreamed of lifting the Premier League trophy.

"It's still like a dream," he said. "On the first day Chelsea drew with Tottenham, it's a shock. When I woke up the next day, I am not sure that we have won the league already.

"It is like a dream because I have watched the English Premier League since I was seven. I followed all the news every week about Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal. Now we won the Premier League which I have followed all my life."

Before the last home game against Everton, Aiyawatt asked the players to win the match even though they had sealed the title.

"I told the players that we need to win this game any way. We need to perform well at home to show the fans we can still win the Premier League even if Chelsea had not drawn with Tottenham, show them how the Premier League champions play football and show them we don't rely on Chelsea."

"The spirit of the team is superb. They are like a family," he said of the 3-1 victory.

The Thai family, who bought Leicester in 2010, had been losing money for four years before the team were promoted to the Premier League in 2014. They are expected to earn 150 million pounds next season. But Aiyawatt said they will not buy big names for their Champions League campaign.

"It depends on the manager. I believe in my staff, I believe in my manager," he said.

"After the Chelsea game on Sunday in the last game, we will sit down and talk. The team is doing the whole work to find the players, to find how much we are going to spend.

"To spend crazy money is not our plan. But we have to buy the players who are good for us and who can cover the space where we are weak.

"You have to be reasonable to spend the money. If you buy some players with crazy money, it is not fair for the players this season who have fought for the club to win the champion.

"If there is a chance to buy amazing players, we will do it. But as I said our policy from the first day when we bought Leicester from the championship, we want players to come to achieve success with us, not just the successful players with another club to come to enjoy the money or football here. I ask them to come to fight for the first 11 places, not just to come to play every game."

With players like Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez becoming superstars, there are a lot of people who are skeptical about their future next season but Aiyawatt said he will try best to keep every player.

"I think they are happy at the club. We are going to play the champions league next year. So why are they going to move out? Will they move to a club who cannot play the Champions League just for money? I don't think so.

"About the money and the contract, we talk to them all the time to improve the money because it is a win-win situation. We will try to improve the contract with all the players. I will try everything I can to let them stay at the club."

He denied that every player had been given a Mercedes car worth 30,000 pounds for prize money after they have won the Engsh premier league.

"For the bonus, the Mercedes, it is in the news everywhere. But I didn't do anything because we have regulations on how to pay the bonus. It is in the contract on the first day. So I am sure the Mercedes story is created by someone."

He also said the club will not sell Vardy or Marhrez even though it might be a good business.

"If you have own one company, you are not going to sell your CEO and your staff to other club or company for sure," he said. "For Leicester, it is not just the money now. We know that if we stay in the Premier League, we can get profitable. Step by step, we can get more. But if you sell the players, you can get all the money back but it's not like Leicester can do it. I cannot say that can happen."

Aiyawat said he will watch their last game at Stanford Bridge in the VIP box on Sunday.

"I will sit among the fans," he said. "I want to see how they cheer, how they support the team. I will enjoy the moment with the fans as well."

It will also be an emotional moment for his father Vichai, once a Chelsea fan, to see Leicester welcomed by the defending champions.

"There are a lot of stories there. You know my father is a Chelsea fan before. When he went to the club, he said, 'one day I will try to beat Chelsea.' It happened already."

Aiyawat said they will talk to manager Claudio Ranieri on extending his contract, which runs until 2018.

"Claudio loves the club, he wants to stay. He still has two years on his contract. We want to talk to him for sure. I don't think he will move anywhere. Next season we will play the Champions League. It is good connection between him, the football director, the CEO and the owner. It is like a family. He is special."

Most Popular
What's Hot