Leicester City honour late Thai owner Vichai

Leicester City honour late Thai owner Vichai
PHOTO: AFP

Leicester City fans fell silent on Saturday in a heartfelt tribute to late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha before the first home match since he was killed in a helicopter crash two weeks ago.

A special "Tribute to Khun Vichai" video was shown on big screens before kick-off against Burnley, two weeks after the tragedy, which took place moments after the helicopter had taken off from the pitch at the King Power Stadium.

A huge banner was unfurled reading: "Khun Vichai, Forever in our Hearts."

Then the entire stadium fell silent, with fans turning the stands into a sea of white, holding aloft special scarves in memory of their late chairman and to remember servicemen and women killed in wars on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Photo: AFP

Earlier, supporters braved the pouring rain as they made their way through the streets towards the ground for the first home match since the tragedy holding Leicester flags and wearing club shirts, some with "Vichai" on the back.

There was a subdued atmosphere but pockets of chanting, including "We love you Leicester, we do", "I'm Leicester till I die" and simply "Vichai".

Under Vichai's ownership, Leicester produced one of the biggest upsets in English football history by winning the 2015/16 Premier League, having started the season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title.

Leicester team attends owner Vichai's funeral in Bangkok

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    Leicester City's manager Claude Puel (L) and goal keeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) attend the funeral ceremony for Leicester City's Thai owner and duty-free mogul, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha at Wat Thepsirin Buddhist temple in Bangkok.

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    Leicester footballers yesterday attended the funeral in Bangkok of their chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who died in a fiery helicopter crash at their home King Power Stadium last Saturday.

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    Leicester footballers yesterday attended the funeral in Bangkok of their chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who died in a fiery helicopter crash at their home King Power Stadium last Saturday.

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    They will go back to England around the middle of this week to prepare for a game with Burnley – their first home game after Vichai’s passing.

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    They left England for Bangkok after an emotional 1-0 win over Cardiff in their first game after the crash that killed two others passengers and two pilots.

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    The footballers were seen walking to a sala inside Debsirindrawas Ratchaworawiharn Temple in Bangkok where the royally sponsored funeral was held.

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    Vichai’s body was flown home on a private jet on Friday and the funeral rites were conducted at the temple while the Abhidhamma Recitation Ceremony will be held every night from yesterday until Friday, three of the nights being royally sponsored. The royally sponsored cremation rites will be confirmed at a later date.

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    During the pre-match warm-up, Leicester players wore T-shirts with an image of Vichai’s face and the words “The Boss”.

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    Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri and coaching staff during a minutes silence as part of remembrance commemorations and in memory of Leicester CIty's Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

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    Players from both sides line up to observe a minute's silence to remember the victims of the Leicester City helicopter crash which killed Leicester City Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, before the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge in London on November 4, 2018.

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    Leicester players and backroom staff lined up around the centre circle for a minute’s silence with the Cardiff team after the laying of wreaths, while fans of both teams unfurled their banners.

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    The Leicester City footballers travelled to Bangkok after Saturday’s game to attend Vichai’s funeral. Dane Schmeichel said: “Everyone grieves in different ways and the opportunity was given [to go for the funeral] and we wanted to go. We are a family and wanted to pay our last respects together."

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    “It was nice to get a win to take to Thailand now and hopefully we did his family proud,” Schmeichel added. “You couldn’t ask for a better chairman. There are few people who come along in this life that have an impact on you. He had that on me and so many people, and the outpouring of grief around the world shows that,” he said, according to the BBC.

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Saturday's walk was called the 5,000-1 walk in recognition of that astonishing achievement.

The charismatic Thai had become a beloved figure in the club and the city -- a feat rarely achieved by Premier League clubs' often distant billionaire owners.

"No chairman has done what he's done with Leicester City. I respect all he's done and not just for the football club, also charity-wise," said fan Jake Tilson, 35. "He's a legend."

"I think football can learn from him and the way he gave to the local community."

Another supporter, Don Martin, said: "It seems like it's a celebration but it's one of the saddest days for the club. It's recognition for the chairman.

"I'm confident about the future. Top (Vichai's son) and the rest of the family will carry on his father's legacy. There is no doubt about that," added the 57-year-old.

Statue

On Friday, the club announced plans to erect a statue of Vichai at the stadium.

His son Aiyawatt, the club's vice-chairman who is known as Top, wrote in Saturday's match programme: "We will never be able to repay what he did for us -- for me as his son, us as his family, everyone connected to Leicester City and beyond -- but we are committed to honouring his memory and upholding his legacy."

Manager Claude Puel wrote: "He (Vichai) may not be here in person today but he will be here in spirit and we will carry his essence in our hearts."

Vichai was among five people killed when the helicopter plunged to the ground in a car park just outside the stadium following Leicester's match against West Ham on October 27.

The team, currently 10th in the Premier League, returned to action last weekend, beating Cardiff 1-0 away.

A number of players, including Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel, and manager Puel travelled to Thailand to attend Vichai's funeral.

Schmeichel has been especially affected, having watched the helicopter take off from the pitch before it appeared to go into a fateful spin.

"I was on the pitch and I waved him off," said Schmeichel. "I saw it all happen. It is something that will stay with me, unfortunately."

Mourners have turned Leicester's stadium into a shrine to Vichai, carpeting the ground with floral tributes and messages of thanks.

Stories have emerged of his acts of generosity to the club's supporters and players and sizeable donations he made to local hospitals.

Thai billionaire Vichai's family visits Leicester crash site

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    Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, son of Leicester City's owner Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, clasps his hands together as he stands infront of Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel amongst tributes left for Vichai and four other people who died when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed as it left the ground after the match on Saturday, in Leicester, Britain, October 29, 2018.

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    The family of the late Thai billionaire boss of Premier League club Leicester City paid tribute to him on Monday at the site where his helicopter crashed as investigators began examining the aircraft's black box.

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    Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (right) and Aimon Srivaddhanaprabha, the son and wife of Leicester City's Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who died in a helicopter crash at the club's stadium, look at the floral tributes left to the victims of the crash.

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    Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's son and widow were seen laying a wreath among a sea of tributes from fans outside the stadium, including flowers, football scarves and Buddhist statues.

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    Vichai's son Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, known as "Top", is chief executive of his father's duty-free empire King Power and also vice-chairman of the football club Vichai bought in 2010.

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    Along with other family members and executives from King Power, the two were also seen laying wreaths at the crash site in a car park near the stadium, which is still cordoned off as air accident investigators pick through the wreckage.

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    Five people died in Saturday's crash, including also two members of Vichai's staff, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and the pilot's girlfriend, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, also a pilot.

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    Nursara Suknamai was an actress and a runner-up in Miss Thailand Universe in 2005.

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    The reins of King Power Group's multi-billion-baht business empire is now in the hands of 32-year-old Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha.

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    With his father gone, Aiyawatt has to take over as the CEO of King Power Group as well as chairman of the English Premier League football club Leicester City.

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    However, it remains unclear if Aiyawatt has his father's mettle, especially in terms of having a formidable wheeler-dealer attitude, even though he has been groomed over the past several years for these new challenges.

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    Fans laid down hundreds of football scarves, shirts and flowers outside Leicester City's stadium on Sunday, a day after the club's Thai billionaire owner died in a helicopter crash just outside the ground.

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    Fans streamed to the stadium to express their gratitude long before official confirmation that the 60-year-old businessman, who frequently flies to and from Leicester's home games by helicopter, was aboard the aircraft.

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    Four other people on the helicopter, including two members of Vichai's staff, were also killed in the crash.

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    Residents remembered a determined and charismatic figure who was the driving force behind a footballing feat when the club rose through the ranks to win the top spot two years ago.

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    Many also remembered the owner's generosity to fans -- free breakfasts at away matches and free beers on his birthday -- as well as to the city, including a donation to the local hospital.

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    Vichai also brought Thailand greater recognition in the international sporting world, developing the Southeast Asian country's football scene.

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    Kanti Patel, one of the first supporters to come to pay tribute in the early hours of Sunday, told AFP: "It means a lot to me, he did a lot for the club. "I can't get over it. Since him being with the club the club has done well, and I don't know what's going to happen now."

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    Another fan, Nathavut Sirimontaporn, said Vichai had brought "benefits" to Thai football. "I think having him as an owner of the Leicester City made people know Thailand more," he said.

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    A man kneels with a statue of the Buddha and devotional scripture in front of the floral tributes gathered outside Leicester City Football Club's King Power Stadium in Leicester, eastern England, on October 28, 2018

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    Pedestrians walk past a mural showing Leicester City Football Club's Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha near De Montfort University in Leicester, eastern England, on October 28, 2018.

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