Almost the perfect tribute

From above: Leicester players in their tribute jersey and the Burnley team observing two minutes of silence for the Foxes' late chairman Vichai and Remembrance Day. His sons, club vice-chairman Aiyawatt and executive director Apichet, with wreaths. E
From above: Leicester players in their tribute jersey and the Burnley team observing two minutes of silence for the Foxes' late chairman Vichai and Remembrance Day.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
From above: Leicester players in their tribute jersey and the Burnley team observing two minutes of silence for the Foxes' late chairman Vichai and Remembrance Day. His sons, club vice-chairman Aiyawatt and executive director Apichet, with wreaths. E
From above: Leicester players in their tribute jersey and the Burnley team observing two minutes of silence for the Foxes' late chairman Vichai and Remembrance Day.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
From above: Leicester players in their tribute jersey and the Burnley team observing two minutes of silence for the Foxes' late chairman Vichai and Remembrance Day. His sons, club vice-chairman Aiyawatt and executive director Apichet, with wreaths. E
His sons, club vice-chairman Aiyawatt and executive director Apichet, with wreaths.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
From above: Leicester players in their tribute jersey and the Burnley team observing two minutes of silence for the Foxes' late chairman Vichai and Remembrance Day. His sons, club vice-chairman Aiyawatt and executive director Apichet, with wreaths. E
Earlier, some players joining fans in the "5,000-1 Walk" from the city centre to the King Power Stadium, a nod to their 2015-16 title odds.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

Leicester held on return to homeground, but day is marked with tributes to the late Vichai

Danny Barry gets his phone out. He shows a picture of himself and his son, holding a framed photo. He is in that, too, along with Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. It was taken on the late Leicester owner's 60th birthday.

"He was walking along the front of the West Stand," recalled Barry, a City fan for 64 years, yesterday. "I have got this photo which I will keep forever."

Barry, who lives in the nearby town of Shepshed, was on his way home from Leicester's Premier League draw with West Ham two weeks earlier when he heard about Vichai's fateful helicopter crash. He returned three days later to pay his respects. "There were tributes from everywhere," he said. "We had (them from Nottingham) Forest, Derby, Liverpool, West Ham supporters which normally you would never get."

If Vichai became defined by Leicester City, he also transcended them in death.

Football is increasingly accustomed to protests against owners and rather less used to tributes to them. It helped explain why yesterday was unique.

Vichai was admired for his philanthropy and generosity, respected by those who did not know him and those who did.

As football returned to the King Power Stadium, the range of the tributes at the scene of a tragedy was remarkable.

Fan upon fan wore T-shirts bearing his image and the words "the Boss". There were queues to sign the book of condolence, still more wreaths brought to the shrine where the helicopter came down and where a portrait of the Thai tycoon looked down on his public. A more permanent memorial will be erected, with Leicester City announcing plans for a statue of their benefactor.

In the short term, his image appeared in a moving video that drew a tear from his son, and successor, Aiyawatt.

Plenty of others paid their respects. Thousands marched through Leicester, the injured Harry Maguire among them, in Vichai's memory.

Many of Leicester's great and good returned, including managers Martin O'Neill, Nigel Pearson, Craig Shakespeare and Claudio Ranieri.

The programme tributes came from their hall of famers, from Gary Lineker to Peter Shilton, from N'Golo Kante to Riyad Mahrez.

Esteban Cambiasso may have put it best. "Under Khun Vichai, everybody loved Leicester," said the Argentinian.

The one tribute Leicester could not supply, however, was victory. Jamie Vardy had a shot cleared off the line and Rachid Ghezzal hit the bar with a header but Burnley hung on for a draw on what was nevertheless an uplifting occasion.

"The whole city has been on a downer," said Leicester fan Nathaniel Chemah; donations to the hospital and the university meant Vichai's impact was not merely felt in football.

"Most owners take out of the club and Vichai just put in," added Barry. "Without him, we would not have won the Premier League. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 11, 2018, with the headline 'Almost the perfect tribute'. Print Edition | Subscribe