Grieving Leicester try to move on

Leicester's players, led by Kasper Schmeichel, joined mourners in turning the King Power Stadium into a shrine with tributes to their late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Leicester's players, led by Kasper Schmeichel, joined mourners in turning the King Power Stadium into a shrine with tributes to their late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Coach Puel urges players to give their best to honour late owner as they face Cardiff today

LONDON • Leicester City, united in sorrow over the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash, will make an emotional return to Premier League action at Cardiff City today.

Six days after the tragedy, hundreds of mourners continued to lay wreaths, and there was a 20-minute queue to sign a book of condolence outside Leicester's King Power Stadium.

Inside, club manager Claude Puel spoke publicly for the first time about incalculable grief and somehow moving on.

"Playing football has not been on our minds this last week but, for this weekend and all matches after, we will play to honour and remember a man who did so much for our club," he said.

"The result is not important, but our desire to give our best to honour our chairman, that is the most important thing."

Tuesday's League Cup home game against Southampton came too soon for the Foxes, who had the tie pushed back to Nov 27 to allow more time for the community to come to terms with his death, but they have agreed to play in Wales in a bid to start the healing process.

A minute's silence will be observed before kick-off at the Cardiff City Stadium and players will wear black armbands.

Reflecting on the sense of shock around a city that benefited from Vichai's charitable donations as well as his commitment to the football team, Cliff Ginnetta, chairman of the Leicester Supporters' Club said: "This has shaken everyone to the core. He was the boss.

"You saw him in the stands, always with his scarf on, and it's amazing the difference he made and how he was so respected by the fans."

Puel had worked with Vichai for 11/2 league seasons, giving him plenty of time to understand how the businessman had become part of the fabric of the club.

"He truly was loved. Vichai made Leicester City into what it is. He made it a family and made a dream. He invested in the club, the city and in the people," Puel added.

"All the players are devastated. It's a difficult moment. To see all of the messages, flowers and shirts outside the stadium this week show how many lives he touched."

The retail magnate was among five people killed when his helicopter crashed outside the stadium following last Saturday's league match against West Ham.

The tragedy rocked the football world with the club's players joining mourners to turn the stadium into a shrine with flowers and tributes.

With his vast investment and boundless enthusiasm, the charismatic Vichai was the inspiration behind their incredible league title triumph as 5,000-1 outsiders in 2016.

Leicester's fairy-tale reign as English champions is a glorious memory that will stand forever as a tribute to Vichai's eight-year reign.

But, for now, Puel's men, currently 12th in the league and without a victory in their last three games, will have to focus on finding solace on the pitch.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CARDIFF V LEICESTER

Singtel TV Ch104 & StarHub Ch229, 11pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2018, with the headline 'Grieving Leicester try to move on'. Print Edition | Subscribe