Leicester City’s Thai boss Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was killed along with four other people when his helicopter crashed shortly after take-off just outside the team’s stadium, the club confirmed on Sunday.
“It is with the deepest regret and a collective broken heart that we confirm our chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was among those to have tragically lost their lives on Saturday evening when a helicopter carrying him and four other people crashed outside King Power Stadium,” the club said in a statement.
Vichai was earlier feared dead as neither the police nor the club would confirm or deny whether there were any casualties. Vichai, a regular at matches who flies to and from home games by helicopter, was on board the aircraft when it appeared to develop a mechanical problem in its rear propeller.
Before the death was confirmed, prayers and words of warm praise poured in from across Britain and beyond for Vichai. A steady stream of grieving fans laid down football scarves and shirts outside the home fans’ entrance as aviation experts picked through the helicopter’s charred remains.
Among the tributes was an image of Ganesh – a Hindu god also seen in Thai Buddhist temples.
A minute of silence was observed before the whistle of Sunday’s two early Premier League matches.
“He’s put Leicester on the map,” club supporter Cathy Dann, 55, told AFP. “He’s made us big.”
Vichai was a much loved figure among Leicester fans – a feat not always achieved by the Premier League’s foreign owners. He bought the club in 2010 and became chairman the following February, before pouring millions into the team.
Vichai’s major investments in the club helped return them to England’s Premier League from the second-tier Championship in 2014.
They initially seemed outclassed by richer and more established clubs from London, Liverpool and Manchester, languishing at the very bottom of the table for most of the 2014-’15 season.
The Foxes, as the team are nicknamed, then engineered what fans now fondly refer to as the “Great Escape”, winning seven of their last nine matches.
They ended up finishing 14th, securing another season in Europe’s richest league in 2015/16.
But not even their most devout fans could have imagined what happened next.
Striker Jamie Vardy, signed from non-league Fleetwood Town, scored in 11 consecutive matches, propelling the men in blue to a title without parallel in Premier League history. It was one of the biggest fairy-tales in English football history as Leicester won the 2015-’16 Premier League, having started the season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title.
The success also qualified them for the first time for the lucrative Champions League, the pinnacle of European football played by the continent’s most successful sides, including Barcelona and Real Madrid.
There, Leicester City defied the odds yet again, winning their group before eventually losing their quarter-final 2-1 over two legs to Atletico Madrid.
With inputs from Scroll Staff