CLOSINGS: View Closings

Leicester City: Healing a broken city after 'horrific time for everybody'

No words can soothe heartbreak, which is why Leicester has fallen silent. It is a city stunned, a city griev...

Posted: Oct 31, 2018 10:59 AM
Updated: Oct 31, 2018 10:59 AM

No words can soothe heartbreak, which is why Leicester has fallen silent. It is a city stunned, a city grieving.

On an October day cold enough to freeze breath, little was said as players and staff of Leicester City gathered, heads bowed, outside the King Power Stadium to observe the ever-increasing field of flowers, shirts and scarves now serving as a memorial to the club's owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Aircraft

Aviation and aerospace industry

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Football (Soccer)

Helicopters

Leicester City FC

Premier League

Sports and recreation

Sports organizations and teams

Continents and regions

Asia

Southeast Asia

Thailand

Amid the hushed tones and the rustling of cellophane wrappers containing countless flowers, the former England international Jamie Vardy placed a consoling arm around Srivaddhanaprabha's son, Aiyawatt, as the pair gazed at the messages written in tribute to the beloved billionaire killed in a helicopter crash on Saturday.

With emotions still raw, it was a warm, instinctive gesture from the club's leading striker, comforting a young man who, in tragic circumstances, is expected to continue his father's legacy.

READ: Fans mourn a 'great human being'

"I hope Aiyawatt takes encouragement from the fact that we're broken as a club, broken as a city, but we've come together before," journalist and Leicester city fan Geoff Peters told CNN Sport. "We came together when we won the Premier League and we'll come together again."

Kasper Schmeichel, one of the English Premier League club's longest-serving players, a goalkeeper signed under Srivaddhanaprabha's ownership, had led the players as they lined up around the periphery of the tributes. The Dane had apparently seen the fallen helicopter in flames on the perimeter of the stadium in the hours after the league match with West Ham.

First, he sunk his face into his coat and, as the 31-year-old allowed himself to read some of the messages of condolences which had spread around a large picture of the man Schmeichel himself has said "gave hope to everyone that the impossible was possible," he covered his mouth with his hand, overwhelmed with grief. It will take time for these wounds to heal.

There was none of the boisterousness associated with a crowd of this size which usually ambles outside this East Midlands ground. Those who spoke did so at a whisper. Though hundreds encircled the players, there were no barriers separating dazed fans from the soccer stars who were given space to silently pay their respects before applause briefly rippled around the congregation.

The sense of loss palpable, this is a family tragedy which has affected a city, affected sport.

Before morning had turned into the bitterest of afternoons, the 12 boys trapped for 18 days in a flooded cave in Thailand had come to pay their respects, laying a wreath on the concourse and bowing their heads in unison. Their gesture generating tears on a day when it was difficult not to weep.

Srivaddhanaprabha death has touched many. Among the impromptu shrine of flowers and candles were not only garments in the Leicester blue, but Liverpool and Juventus shirts, a Celtic flag placed on the railings, a message from the city's rugby team. Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa fans, regional rivals united in grief, had left messages too, while a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan had taken the day off to travel an hour and to pay his respects to a billionaire who had transformed not only a football club but a city.

Scribbled on hundreds of scarves and shirts were the words "thank you," simple yet emotive, evoking memories of Leicester's against-all-odds Premier League triumph in 2016, made possible by the largesse of the now much missed 60-year-old who bought the club in 2010 for $49 million when Leicester was in English football's second tier.

READ: Mahrez's tribute to Leicester owner after scoring

Srivaddhanaprabha, who made his fortune in duty-free shops, oversaw the most glorious period of Leicester's history -- a Premier League title, a Champions League quarterfinal, success few fans would have dared imagined when he took over and cleared the club's debts. "You brought happiness to the club," wrote one fan on a shirt. "You made us fearless."

A private man who stayed out of the limelight, Srivaddhanaprabha will be remembered for more than football. He donated millions to the city's hospital and university and was generous to the fans, giving 60 free season tickets to fans to mark his 60th birthday. Foxes supporters have plenty of acts of benevolence to look back on.

"No match at Leicester City will ever be the same again," said local Member of Parliament Keith Vaz on hearing that his friend was one of five killed as the Thai's helicopter bearing the team's colors spiraled to earth and burst into flames outside the stadium.

Leicester's cup match against Southampton on Tuesday has been canceled and question marks remain over whether Saturday's league tie against Cardiff will go ahead. But expect Leicester City to pull through. As Schmeichel posted on Twitter: "We now have a responsibility as a club, as players and fans to honor you."

Should the pain not engulf him, the heir to the King Power empire is Srivaddhanaprabha's son, affectionately known as "Top." Father and son would normally attend home matches together and had he not been in Thailand on business, Aiyawatt would likely have been in the helicopter that fateful Saturday evening.

With tears filling his eyes, lifelong Foxes fan Nigel Manning scrambled to find solace. "I know it's a sad thing to say but at least his son wasn't on the plane," he said. "He's not the sort of person who will walk away and that's the only thing we can be thankful for today."

Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and videos

As Vardy's supportive gesture showed, Aiyawatt and his family are much loved in these parts.

"Aiyawatt is massively involved in the club," added Peters.

"Some people said there was a good cop, bad cop routine between them and Vichai was the bad cop. Nigel Pearson had been sacked by Vichai but we're led to believe that the son asked whether that was the right decision and he listened to his son and kept him on as manager.

"With nine games to go they were seven points from safety, won seven of the last nine games and it was the great escape. From being nailed on relegation to being 5000-1 outsiders to win the Premier League. Would that have happened if the vice chairman had not talked his dad around?

"He knows the club, he knows the inner workings of it, he's deeply embedded in it. He's very much an integral part of the family working at this football club. It's a grim, horrific time for everybody. It will never get back to normal, but it will get back to some normality."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 289303

Reported Deaths: 3434
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin616511100
Ramsey25903487
Anoka20522218
Dakota20096183
Washington13066109
Stearns1291098
St. Louis7935101
Scott782754
Wright702436
Olmsted626134
Sherburne538640
Clay463856
Carver432213
Blue Earth387112
Rice386033
Kandiyohi373819
Crow Wing334631
Nobles298729
Chisago29358
Otter Tail282818
Benton278642
Winona258128
Mower241323
Douglas237631
Polk234423
Morrison219524
Lyon201911
McLeod195610
Beltrami194615
Becker187512
Goodhue185727
Steele17826
Itasca176124
Isanti174316
Todd171612
Carlton165710
Nicollet150823
Freeborn14465
Mille Lacs141630
Le Sueur138110
Waseca134011
Cass12849
Brown125011
Pine12458
Meeker11308
Roseau10503
Hubbard103822
Martin101920
Wabasha9611
Redwood83718
Dodge8060
Chippewa8057
Watonwan7984
Cottonwood7682
Renville75119
Sibley7414
Wadena7376
Aitkin69826
Rock6829
Pipestone67818
Houston6422
Fillmore6320
Yellow Medicine59311
Pennington5856
Kanabec54912
Murray5493
Swift5366
Faribault5081
Pope4990
Stevens4643
Clearwater4536
Marshall4438
Jackson4361
Unassigned38759
Lake3816
Koochiching3535
Wilkin3465
Lac qui Parle3383
Norman3227
Lincoln3171
Big Stone2841
Mahnomen2704
Grant2516
Red Lake2033
Kittson1917
Traverse1360
Lake of the Woods931
Cook600

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 220032

Reported Deaths: 2282
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk32695327
Linn13801164
Scott1068881
Black Hawk10631132
Woodbury10061120
Johnson932336
Dubuque904191
Story666620
Dallas619957
Pottawattamie602967
Sioux362025
Webster348432
Marshall342044
Cerro Gordo340644
Clinton315939
Buena Vista297914
Des Moines278218
Muscatine278268
Warren270510
Plymouth265639
Wapello248671
Jones226913
Jasper210942
Marion200019
Lee195416
Carroll194621
Bremer188712
Henry17917
Crawford172015
Benton165116
Tama151540
Jackson140712
Delaware139621
Washington136914
Boone132911
Dickinson132710
Mahaska124127
Wright11986
Buchanan114110
Clay11184
Hardin111310
Page11074
Clayton10665
Hamilton10657
Harrison104328
Cedar103913
Calhoun10387
Fayette10149
Floyd100914
Mills10097
Kossuth10076
Lyon9988
Poweshiek97113
Butler9566
Winneshiek93311
Iowa91712
Winnebago89723
Hancock8417
Louisa83616
Grundy82611
Sac8207
Chickasaw8174
Cherokee7984
Cass78821
Mitchell7664
Appanoose76510
Allamakee76411
Shelby7469
Humboldt7435
Union7396
Emmet73624
Guthrie73015
Franklin71221
Jefferson6742
Madison6684
Palo Alto6244
Unassigned6170
Keokuk5647
Pocahontas5512
Howard5319
Greene5140
Osceola5101
Clarke4764
Ida46411
Taylor4513
Montgomery44610
Davis4455
Monroe43712
Adair4258
Monona4182
Fremont3523
Van Buren3524
Worth3470
Lucas3206
Decatur3120
Wayne2936
Audubon2922
Ringgold1982
Adams1612
Rochester
Overcast
31° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 22°
Mason City
Overcast
31° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 23°
Albert Lea
Overcast
30° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 25°
Austin
Overcast
30° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 25°
Charles City
Overcast
32° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 26°
Sunshine Returns for Friday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

SMACK Helps Pass Along Positivity This Holiday Season

Image

Aaron's Thanksgiving Night Forecast

Image

Passing along positive notes this Thanksgiving

Image

Serving up Thanksgiving to-go

Image

Salvation Army opens its doors for Thanksgiving

Image

Canadian Honker busy with Thanksgiving takeout orders

Image

Staying home and staying safe for Thanksgiving

Image

Brightening Up A Unquie Thanksgiving

Image

Immanual Luthern Church Serves 350 Meals

Image

Chez Bojji Gives Back On Thanksgiving

Community Events