Last week, the polo world received tragic confirmation regarding events that took place on Saturday evening. The news shook the world of polo, and sports in general, to the core. The death of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha affected everyone, not only those that had met him, but those who hadn’t, as well. He transformed an organisation, King Power, into one of the most powerful in polo, one that shone at the highest levels of the sport, both as a sponsor and with his own team.
VS Sports Club, located on the outskirts of Bangkok, is a club that boasts first rate installations. Pololine was invited to visit the club, and can attest to the impressive set up and its capacity for hosting top polo events. The club’s flood lit field, which allows the club to host matches at night, is unique in the world. Furthermore, VS Sports Club, through SIAM Polo Park in Pattaya, played a huge role in reviving polo in Thailand.
The polo world was quick to voice its condolences and offer kind words remembering Khun Vichai. Adolfo Cambiaso was one of the first to get in touch. “The news really hit me hard,” he says. “He was a great guy. I met him through Ali Albwardy. I have the best memories of him. He sponsored La Dolfina in Argentina, when we played with the Chicago shirt, in 2002.”
One of the people who knew him best was Marcos Di Paola, having shared the last fifteen years of his life with Vichai, through a professional relationship which developed into a friendship. Vichai could often be seen around several Argentine polo fields watching Negro play, regardless of the level of tournament. Speaking to PoloLine, Di Paola described Vichai perfectly:
“We met in Argentina, around 2003, through a very good friend of mine who was playing the Ellerstina Silver Cup, who asked me to coach his team. The following year, Gustavo Yañez, his manager at the time, took me to Thailand to play the King’s Cup with them. That is when we started building a relationship with him and his family, which grew stronger as time went by. We played several seasons in England, and in August 2013, he said to me, ‘I want to win the Queen’s Cup and the Gold Cup. Get me the best players and the best horses.’ He was like that!
I think he managed to build the best polo organisation in the world, and that lead to the results everyone is familiar with. I have many great memories of him; our families shared many experiences, we really did spend a lot of time together. He was a very interesting person, and I learnt a lot from him. In his own way, he was kind, very generous and empathetic, honest and fair. He was always attuned to everyone else’s needs. When it came to sports, he was very competitive, a born winner.”
“He has an incredible family,” continues Di Paola. “His wife, Tuk, and children, Top, Tal, Rux and Roong all work in the family business, King Power. His family share the same values, because that is how they were educated: humble, with a low profile, and pro-active. The polo world has had to say goodbye to one of the most important and influential figures in the history of the sport. I am sure that his children will carry on his legacy as long as they are able to do so. I am going to miss him a lot. He undoubtedly changed my life and I will be eternally grateful. Vichai always looked for excellence, he dreamt big, and had objectives which seemed impossible, but not to him. His positive energy was contagious, and he maintained that through hard work and discipline anything could be accomplished. He was always two steps ahead of everyone else, a visionary and a fearless entrepreneur. Not only did he leave a huge mark in the polo world, but also in football with Leicester City. Vichai was truly one of a kind.”
Of course, King Power was much more than the four players who rode onto the field, it was a huge organisation that worked all year round, not just during the months of polo in England. The seasons at VS Sports Club and SIAM Polo Park were incredibly intense. Lucas Lujan, polo manager of King Power in Thailand, one of the people who spent the most time with Vichai in recent months, shared: “Vichai was a father to all of those who worked with him. He was a generous person, always making sure that you had everything you needed. He was the number one, totally respected by everyone around him, idolised and loved. He taught me a lot; every time you spoke with him, he would leave a lesson. He was a lot of fun, too, with great charisma.”
He shared the field with princes and 10-goalers, but the majority of the polo world will know him from the success his team had from 2015-2017, when King Power won the Gold Cup for three consecutive years, and the Queen’s Cup once, in 2015. Gonzalito Pieres, one of the King Power players from that time, told: “Vichai was a great patron. Polo, particularly English polo, has been struggling in recent years, and he came in and raised the bar with excellent places, an amazing organisation, and great horses. He was doing things right and he was coming back to play the high goal this year. My years in King Power were some of my best; we really had a great time. It was such a good organisation that you didn’t want to leave. He was a huge polo fan, very dedicated, and working to do things the best way possible. They are a great family, and they will support each other through this. I send them strength during this hard time.”
Another person from the King Power team, both in Thailand and England, said to PoloLine: “He was a complete genius. Everybody here loves him. He helped a lot of people and gave many of them jobs. When he did something, he did it well, taking it seriously, be it work, polo or football. His sons, Top and Tal, are fantastic people. This is heartbreaking.”
Lastly, different polo organisations, such as the FIP and Ham Polo Club, have sent messages expressing their sentiments of grief and appreciation for Vichai, who was the President of Ham Polo Club for four years. Current Chairman Howard Davis, shared: “Many of you are aware that Vichai was President of Ham Polo Club between 2008-2012, and that his support and dedication was outstanding throughout. Vichai’s love for polo equalled his love of football, and we are truly lucky to have met him and have had him as a member of Ham. Vichai was hugely generous, supporting many charity events at the club; over the last few years he sponsored King Power Laureus Sport for Good. We are devastated at the loss of such a great friend.”