Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha - A great Loss to World Football

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By Andrew Bonani Kamanga

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai founder and owner of King Power as well as owner of Leicester City Football Club, is no more. Srivaddhanaprabha and five others perished in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England. 

The world of football is in mourning. What is most painful about the death of this gentleman is that he transformed Leicester from a club that struggled perennially against relegation into English Premier League (EPL) champions.

The football world witnessed a miracle when minnows, Leicester, won the EPL title in the 2015/2016 season. 

Nobody expected Leicester to win anything and above all, the Premiership. This was a marvelous story of David having slaughtered not just one Goliath but six or seven Goliaths.

The overriding lesson to be drawn from the Leicester miracle is that dreams do come true.

One needs to work hard and tenaciously to achieve the dreams. The whole city of Leicester is mourning a gentleman from Thailand, who had become one of their own.

Stories of his amazing generosity are being narrated by the players, officials and fans alike.

Leicester managed to swim with the sharks and emerged victoriously. This phenomenon has become a source of great encouragement among sports people in various sport codes and endeavours.

If Leicester can do it, surely others can do it as well. The Leicester story does inspire and provides lessons even for Southern African football that there is a need for comprehensive marketing to attract much-needed sponsorship in the game.

Club football in Southern Africa is fighting a valiant fight in the premier continental club competition, the African Clubs Champions League.

The establishment, development and sustenance of club football are fundamental to the overall development of the beautiful game in Southern Africa.

The need to raise the standard of administration and management of clubs is something that the former FIFA Development Officer for Eastern and Southern Africa, Ashford Mamelodi, was always hammering on.

The veteran football and sports administrator worked for over the past decade or so to raise the standard of the game in the region.

His gallant efforts have not been in vain as some national football associations are slowly taking heed of his advice to prioritise grassroots development as well as club development.

When you look at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Club Champions competition, one can ask why is it that the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) has not come up with a club tournament for the region. It would be great for the region if there could be a clash among the likes of Petro Atletico of Angola, Dynamos of Zimbabwe, ZESCO of Zambia, Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates (RSA) as well as Ferroviaro and Maxaquene of Mozambique.

Such innovation would provide players with an additional platform to showcase their skills and benchmark against their peers.

Inviting guest clubs from other parts of Africa or even the world would not really be a bad idea to spice up the competition. Even the FIFA Club competition, held mostly in Japan, is a very much anticipated event.

The rise of Southern African clubs should not be by luck, which seems to be the case now, a fluke. Sustained development is something that COSAFA must prioritise then they can say with certainty that indeed it is through their concerted efforts that Southern African football has made giant strides.

Football clubs and national teams in the region need to be technically equipped to raise their performances.

Southern African countries simply cannot expect to conquer the continent of Africa or the world for that matter, when the standard of club football in their countries, and the region, is very poor.

There is a need to increase these age group or club tournaments to ensure that there is fierce competition at the national and regional levels before venturing into the continent as well as world competitions.

The Leicester example has shown that it is possible to succeed, even under very adverse conditions. As for Southern African football, Ashford Mamelodi has shown the way to go. It is now up to association and club leaders to learn the valuable lessons dispensed by the gentleman to transform the game. The process of transforming and developing the football landscape in Southern Africa is both simple and complex. It is a paradox in the sense that finances are needed but they are not the only prerequisite to development.

It is time for Southern African countries to take football very seriously to ensure the all-round development of the game through well-executed development programmes.

Southern Africa is faced with numerous economic and human development challenges. It is naïve and wrong for football leaders to expect that governments will bank-roll football development programmes.

Sport will never be a priority on the national and regional development agendas.  That is why there is a need to engage the African multi-millionaires and billionaires to invest in football. In this connection, Vichai Srivaddaranaprabha will continue to provide inspiration from the grave. Rest in peace, Srivaddhanaprabha

 

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