How tragic events at Leicester City have united the football family
As a lifelong Leicester City supporter and season ticket holder, it’s not easy to write about the tragic events of last Saturday. But here goes.
It had been like any other match day. Walking away from the stadium after witnessing Leicester score an 89th-minute equaliser against West Ham United, chatter among the fans was on the game. Such would pale into insignificance when news broke later that night.
The helicopter carrying Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, as well as passengers Nusara Suknamai, Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and co-pilot Izabela Roza, had crashed outside the King Power Stadium. On Sunday night, the club confirmed all five lost their lives.
The reaction since tells the enormous impact Khun Vichai had on both Leicester City and the wider community. Tributes have filled the concourse outside of the King Power family stand, with more being added every day.
To Leicester supporters, Khun Vichai was more than just the owner. He was the man who chose our club, our city and our community. The Thai Businessman took the Foxes from Championship obscurity to being a household name in the world of football. He did it with class while involving local people to create a family atmosphere.
It has been well documented the free things that fans have received during the past eight years, ranging from bottles of beer and cakes to scarves and programmes (supporters travelling to Cardiff today were set for a breakfast and scarf). Stories of Vichai's generosity have gathered pace since his death was announced. He donated £2 million to Leicester hospitals as well as £1 million to the universities’ research units. Unlike many modern-day owners, the 60-year-old realised the importance of treating supporters well, refusing to regard them solely as customers. He endeared himself from his first day in charge. Losing a good man is being felt not just throughout the city, but the country, too.
It must also be acknowledged that four other people lost their lives in the accident. Some reports claim Eric Swaffer heroically diverted the falling aircraft from the residual crowds.
If any solace can be taken from this tragedy it is the way in which football has united. The positive messages on social media from other clubs, players and fans have been overwhelming. Leicester City recently Tweeted that the support given by the game's wider family has been a great source of comfort. The feeling from us fans is the same.
Leicester have dealt with unbelievably difficult circumstances in such a way that makes me even more proud to be a Foxes supporter. It's the little touches, like providing free hot drinks to those there paying respects, which sum up the culture Khun Vichai instilled. The players and staff coming together as they have shows what a family feel the chairmen built. His legacy will continue to flow throughout the club.
On Tuesday, it was announced today's scheduled Premier League game at Cardiff City will go ahead after consultation with both the players and victims' families. This match will be the first step in a long healing process for a club, city and community. Continued help from the football family will make that process easier.
All there's left to say as a Leicester devotee is thank you. The kindness on display in the last week proves that although football is divided by colours, fans will always remain united by the sport we all love.