Leicester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Leicester City rode a wave of emotion on Saturday but were unable to break the deadlock against Burnley in their first home match since owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was killed in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium.
Claude Puel’s team came agonisingly close to scoring a late winner but Shinji Okazaki’s header flashed wide deep into injury time and they were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw.
Following the match, Vichai’s son Aiyawatt, known as Top — accompanied by players and staff plus former managers including Claudio Ranieri — walked around all four sides of the pitch clapping the fans, who chanted “Vichai” in response.
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.
On Friday, the club announced plans to erect a statue of Vichai at the stadium.
“It was difficult with a lot of emotion around the game, during the game and after the game,” said Leicester boss Claude Puel.
“We were unlucky but I was proud of the players’ performance because they gave their best in this situation.”
“It was a tough week to prepare this game without training sessions and a long journey to Bangkok,” he added. “The players compensated with desire.”
Before kick-off a special tribute video was shown on big screens and a huge banner was unfurled reading: “Khun Vichai, Forever in our Hearts”.
Then the entire stadium fell silent for two minutes to remember Vichai and the four others killed in the crash as well as servicemen and women who have died in battle, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Fans turned the stands into a sea of white during the silence, holding aloft special scarves dedicated to their former owner, who made their impossible Premier League dream a reality just two years ago.
– Tribute march –
Earlier, supporters braved the pouring rain as they made their way through the streets towards the ground 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”.
Saturday’s walk was called the 5,000-1 walk in recognition of their astonishing achievement in winning the Premier League.