The perfect word to describe Southeast Asia in terms of football would be: Unexplored. The region has a lot to offer, particularly due to a football-loving fanbase, which follows the weekly thrills of European football. However, every once in a while, there is someone from this part of the world, who breaks tradition and goes on to have an impact on the world’s footballing hub. And so, we at Fox Sports Asia, take a look at five such individuals, who made an impact in European football without stepping on to the pitch.
#5 Peter Lim (Singapore)
Singaporean business tycoon Peter Lim has a deeper connection to football than many people realize. For starters, he has a majority stake in Spanish club Valencia. Moreover, Lim is also the fifty per cent owner of English club Salford City; the other half of which is held by the infamous ‘Class of 92’.
However, the Singapore tycoon’s association with the ‘Class of 92’ is not just restricted to co-owning a club. In fact, he also part-owns Hotel Football, which is located in the Old Trafford premises.
Furthermore, Lim also owns Mint Media, an image rights firm whose top client is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.
#4 Erick Thohir (Indonesia)
When Erick Thohir bought the majority stake in Inter Milan, the club was in severe distress. Gone were their glory days, when they were used to being amongst the European elites. Instead, the Nerazzurri were struggling to escape the limbo of mid-table, in which they had been stuck since Jose Mourinho’s departure.
The Indonesian businessman has been with Inter ever since 2013 and has seen both the highs and the lows. During his stay with the club, Thohir also took on Presidential duties. Under him, Inter Milan finally gained some stability which was transferred, in turn, to the pitch.
Thohir finally sold his stake in the Milan club in 2016 to Suning Group. He has, however, retained the position of Club President and has seen Inter reach the Champions League once again.
#3 Anil Murthy (Singapore)
Much of Valencia’s recent progress has been attached to coach Marcelino. The Spanish coach joined Valencia in 2017, having coached Villareal for the three years prior. His appointment, in turn, proved to be a masterstroke for the Los Che, as they finished in the top four and qualified for the Champions League.
However, there was a more subtle figure in the backrooms of the Mestalla, who helped Valencia reach stability after a transitional phase- Club President, Anil Murthy. A Singapore resident, Murthy worked with his national government for over fifteen years, helping them in various facets of trade and diplomacy.
Murthy began his reign about the same time Marcelino began his. In his Presidency, Valencia made several shrewd signings such as Simone Zaza, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Goncalo Guedes, and more. Moreover, Murthy brought with himself a better structure and a focus towards youth, that has seen the Los Che get back on track.
#2 Vincent Tan (Malaysia)
Known best for his stake in Premier League club Cardiff City, Vincent Tan is a Malaysian business tycoon. Over the years, Tan has invested in several clubs across continents, promoting the Southeast Asian brand. Apart from Cardiff City, the Malaysian businessman is also the owner of SK Sarajevo and KV Kortrijk. Moreover, if one looks across the Atlantic, one would find that Tan holds a certain stake in MLS side Los Angeles FC as well.
Tan’s Cardiff City tenure didn’t get off to the best of starts. The Malaysian came in strongly with a plan to rebrand the club. He did so by replacing the Bluebird with a Red Dragon, while also changing the club’s primary colours from Blue to Red. It’s fair to say that the decision received a huge backlash and was reverted recently.
Since then, Tan has revived his reputation amongst the Cardiff loyals, as he backed the Welsh club financially to reach the Premier League yet again.
#1 Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (Thailand)
What can be the biggest contribution by Southeast Asia to world football? Quite simply, delivering one of the best fairytale stories that the game has ever witnessed.
Owner of King Power, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha bought Leicester City in 2010. With the Thai business tycoon at the helm, the Foxes started showing that they indeed belonged to the top level. Leicester City finally won promotion to the Premier League in 2014. However, things quickly turned sour for the Midlands side, as they became the leagues favourite ‘punching bag’ for the majority of the season.
Leicester somehow survived, due to the immense work of Nigel Pearson. However, Srivaddhanaprabha shocked the supporters by parting ways with him, due to his son being involved in a scandal on a goodwill tour to Thailand. What made fans even more furious was the Thai tycoon’s decision to appoint Claudio Ranieri. What followed next was remarkable.
As we look in retrospect at Srivaddhanaprabha’s reign, we can say one thing for sure. The Thai businessman orchestrated a tale which ended up with Leicester City becoming the Premier League champions.