It looked like the first snow of winter, as if the seats in the King Power Stadium had been covered in a soft white blanket cast from the heavens.
The 30,000 scarves handed out to Leicester fans were being held aloft as part of an immaculate two-minute silence before kick-off.
But amid the quietness, the message was deafening. ‘Mr Chairman,’ said the black stitching on one side of the fabric. ‘Forever in our hearts,’ read the other.
A minute of silence was impeccably held as all those inside the King Power stood to remember Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha
Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (second right) placed a wreath for his father while the club also remembered Armistice Day
Aiywatt, known around the club as ‘Top’, then took to pitch-side while the King Power showed its appreciation
Premier League winning manager Claudio Ranieri was present, sat alongside another former manager in Nigel Pearson
Supporters held aloft scarves which carried a message for Srivaddhanaprabha during the silence before the kick-off
The stands of the King Power soon became a mass of white as the scarves were held aloft in unison
A large banner made its way around the stands as supporters from both teams paid tribute to Srivaddhanaprabha
Leicester players warmed up wearing t-shirts bearing tribute to the late chairman, along with a photograph of ‘The Boss’
‘Khun Vichai, forever in our hearts’ read the back of the warm-up t-shirts as the players took to the field
Messages were also left around the perimeter of the pitch along with shirts donated from fans of various football clubs
Shirts and scarves were inscribed with messages of condolence for Vichai, who helped Leicester achieve the impossible
Showing bravery and courage, Aiywatt made a point of thanking supporters for the send off they gave his late father
The emotional scenes showed the strength of bond created between the ownership, players and supporters at the King Power
MATCH FACTS, LIVE LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Leicester (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel 7; Ricardo 7, Morgan 7, Evans 7 (Soyuncu 90’), Chilwell 7; Mendy 7, Ndidi 7; Albrighton 7 (Iheanacho 60’ 6), Gray 7 (Okazaki 84’), Ghezzal 7; Vardy 7.5
Booked: Morgan, Iheanacho
Subs not used: Simpson, Ward, Iborra, Fuchs
Burnley (4-4-2): Hart 7; Lowton 7, Long 6, Mee 7, Taylor 7; Lennon 6, Defour 6 (Hendrick 55’ 6), Cork 7, Berg Gudmundsson 6.5 (Brady 65’ 6); Vokes 6 (Barnes 73’ 6), Wood 7
Subs not used: Heaton, Westwood, Bardsley, Vydra
Referee: Mike Dean
Season at a glance
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
The scene recalled to mind the afternoon of May 7, 2016. That day the stands in this ground shimmered with white and blue flags. Another free gift to supporters, they were waved feverishly in anticipation of a Premier League trophy being raised. It was jubilation.
This time the sense that swept over the ground was profound solemnity.
In the Buddhist faith the colour white reminds of the end of things and so moving was the video montage in tribute to Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, played on the big screen moments before Mike Dean blew his whistle, it was impossible not to feel the terrible events here a fortnight ago meant the end of a something special indeed.
Leicester will go on of course. Under the Srivaddhanaprabha family too. But now the miracle of 2016 will forever be twinned with the tragedy of 2018. Recollections of highest pleasure tinged by deepest pain.
Underlining the point was the presence in the directors’ box of the three managers who took Leicester to such unexpected altitudes. For the first time Claudio Ranieri, Nigel Pearson, and Craig Shakespeare were together, although they would not have wished it be in these circumstances.
None had been back to the King Power for a match since being sacked by Srivaddhanaprabha but each readily accepted the invitation from Aiyawatt, Vichai’s son and Leicester’s vice-chairman, to attend this emotional occasion. It was an illustration both of their characters and his.
An emotional pre-match team talk was given on the pitch by captain Wes Morgan as Leicester tried to focus on the football
Tears were shed as emotions began to run high inside the stadium, as supporters broke into applause after the silence
Some found the occasion very difficult to process as the grief could be seen clearly throughout the stands of the ground
Finding composure was tough, as the magnitude of recent events hit home for the match-day faithful
The late Srivaddhanaprabha was displayed on the big screen as the players prepared for the game to begin
Joe Hart rushed out in the opening stages of the match to deny Demarai Gray a goal-scoring opportunity
In the 13th minute Leicester fans took this unique opportunity to pay respect back, singing Ranieri’s name, then Pearson’s. Each man in turn rose to his feet to offer applause.
Esteban Cambiasso, loved here for his part in the great escape of 2014-15, and Steve Walsh, the former head of recruitment who unearthed Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and N’Golo Kante, were also present and acknowledged by the crowd. Martin O’Neill too.
It made for a brilliant atmosphere in the early stages, Leicester’s fans eager to remember the good times created by Srivaddhanaprabha’s vision.
Before kick-off an estimated 20,000 had walked from Jubilee Square in the city centre to the stadium in commemoration. Harry Maguire, James Maddison, Matty James, Andy King, and Hamza Choudhury, players unavailable for this game, led the way.
Hundreds attended the huge memorial site that had with the help of volunteers been shifted overnight from behind the North Stand to beside car park E, adjacent to the site of the helicopter crash.
A significant proportion of the scarves and shirts left by mourners from across the country were placed around the perimeter of the pitch too. With numerous clubs represented, it was an uplifting sight as the action played out, a kaleidoscope of the lives touched through Srivaddhanaprabha’s ownership.
Stadium announcer Alan Birchenall stirred the crowd with an introduction from the heart, before Aiyawatt along with his brother Apichet strode out to the centre circle to lay wreaths. Both could have been forgiven for wishing to stay far away from this place of personal hurt but their commitment to Leicester remains undimmed.
‘The last two weeks have been the most difficult I have known,’ Aiyawatt wrote in an elegant matchday programme full of contributions from players, colleagues and fans.
‘I’m extremely proud to have such an extraordinary father. From him I have received a very big mission and legacy to pass on and I intend to do just that.’
Jamie Vardy came close in the first half to breaking the deadlock, but Burnley got men behind the ball just in time
Leicester captain Wes Morgan battled with the Foxes former striker Chris Wood as the match got under way
The Foxes started the game with shirts bearing tribute to the late Vichai, before changing at half-time for poppy shirts
The team began that legacy by winning at Cardiff and here they came out of the traps racing. In the eighth minute Wilfred Ndidi had a shot tipped wide by Joe Hart, but then the Burnley goalkeeper flapped at Marc Albrighton’s cross to present the ball to Vardy. Vardy took a touch and blasted at goal but Matt Lowton cleared off the line superbly.
Rachid Ghezzal hit the bar with a stooping header from another Albrighton cross and in the 27th minute Vardy slipped through Demarai Gray. He eased past Kevin Long but was denied by an excellent save from Hart.
Burnley’s threat was minimal but Kasper Schmeichel felt the need to usher a free-kick from Johann Berg Gudmundsson further round the post.
Into the second half Hart saved a deflected shot by Albrighton and also a far-post header by Jonny Evans. Leicester rallied late to try to get a poignant victory but the energy consumed by their grief and this week’s journey to Thailand to attend Srivaddhanaprabha’s funeral seemed to take its toll. Shinji Okazaki’s header that went just wide the closet they came to a goal.
After the final whistle Aiyawatt led a lap around the pitch, clapping the fans who chanted his father’s name and encouraging noise. It was like that on May 7, 2016. Except this time a most important man was missing.