Leicester City: The relegated Premier League squad delights supporters on their Asia tour
Bagas Wira Paksi, an Indonesian football fan, has been following the fortunes of his favorite club from thousands of kilometers afar for nearly a quarter-century.
But he wants to finally see his squad in action this weekend when Leicester City takes on Liverpool in Singapore.
“I’ve supported Leicester since the Martin O’Neill era in 1999,” Mr Bagas tells the BBC.
“When we won [the Premier League] in 2016, we had a sizable and growing fanbase.” Many people began to support them, although the number is currently little,” he adds.
Tours in the region are a typical element of top-tier teams’ off-season schedules.
Along with Leicester and Liverpool, the Singapore Festival of Football will include Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich from Germany.
Leicester’s first game, scheduled for last Saturday in Bangkok, was canceled due to heavy rain.
This unlucky start to the trip comes at a difficult time for the East Midlands club.
They still had a seat at the top table of English football and the wealth that comes with it in mid-May, when they announced plans to visit the region.
However, less than a fortnight later, they were relegated from the English Premier League (EPL) to the Championship.
As they prepare for life in English football’s second flight, the club will travel to Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.
It’s a difficult adjustment for both the club’s supporters and its finance sheet, with lucrative TV revenue gone and only so-called parachute payments to cushion the impact.
The Premier League pays a series of payments to demoted clubs for up to three years to help them adjust to lower revenue in the Championship, not to mention dramatically lower TV money.
“You’re looking at a £60 million ($77 million) drop in revenue overnight,” says Dan Plumley, a senior lecturer in sport finance at Sheffield Hallam University.
The club’s relegation after a historic 13-year stint under Thai duty-free behemoth King Power’s ownership.
Leicester City created history in 2016 when they won the English Premier League in one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
But tragedy struck just two years later, when club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died in a helicopter crash.
“We are so thankful for what the Thai owners did because of the position we were in when they took over – we were still in the Championship,” Mr Bagas explains.
“They came in with low expectations from us, but it turned out to be one of the best years for fans.”