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 By Paul Murphy

Thailand monk who helped Leicester City visited by SEA Games squad

Thailand's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games football squad have paid a visit to the Buddhist Monk who was thought by many in Bangkok to have played a significant role in Leicester City's sensational Premier League triumph in 2016.

The War Elephants kick off their Group B campaign against Indonesia on Aug. 15 before facing Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Philippines and Vietnam. Their visit to one of Bangkok's most famous temples was timed to give the players a lift as they attempt to retain their SEA Games title in Kuala Lumpur.

Leicester City's Thai owners famously enlisted the spiritual guidance of Phra Prommangkalachan when their club launched an unlikely bid for the title in the season after they had made a great escape from relegation.

Such was the nature of the Foxes' subsequent victory, it turned fans into believers and encouraged other sports teams to turn to the same source for inspiration.

On Friday, former Kelantan FA player Worrawoot Srimaka -- the head coach of Thailand's U23 team -- took his players to meet the revered monk at the Golden Buddha Temple in Bangkok. The same temple has become a destination of pilgrimage for any Leicester fans visiting the city since the Foxes became English champions last year.

Phra said he prayed during the Chelsea-Spurs match as Leicester clinched the 2015-16 Premier League crown.

The Thai team received a blessing and amulets as the tournament favourites prepared to defend the gold medal that they won in Singapore in 2015. There is nothing unusual in Thai football teams looking for spiritual assistance before games, but the relative celebrity of the monk make this a more significant visit.

Prommangkalachan's and some fellow monks visited Leicester City's King Power stadium after an invitation from club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. The stadium was blessed and players were given amulets and fabric talismans before they surged to arguably the most shocking title win in English football history.

In contrast, it would no surprise at all were Thailand to repeat their triumphs of 2013 and 2015 in Kuala Lumpur later this month. The Thais are clear front runners to win the tournament which begins next week.

As the dominant side in the region at the moment, Worrawoot's men are seen as very much the team to beat. But Datuk Ong Kim Swee's Malaysia are among those who are looking to cause an upset and take the gold medal away from the holders.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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