LEICESTER, United Kingdom – After authorities confirmed the owner of Leicester City Football Club died in a helicopter crash on Saturday, religious leaders in the city were among those who offered their condolences.
Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was leaving the King Power Stadium on Saturday after his team drew 1-1 with London’s West Ham United when his helicopter crashed outside the stadium. Two members of the flight crew and two staff members also died in the crash.
Soon after the crash, Leicester’s Anglican cathedral sent out a tweet saying: “We are one family in Leicester tonight having just heard of the tragic helicopter crash at the end of the evening’s football match at the Foxes. We offer our sincere prayers.”
We’re humbled by the support from the football family and the wider world.Thank you 🙏
The sentiments are hard to understand if you are not in Leicester: Located in the very center of England, the city is one of the country’s most multicultural communities. It was the first minority-majority city in the country, and the football club serves a unifying role.
This role was promoted by Vichai, who took over the club in 2010, just a year after it had escaped England’s third division and returned to the second-tier Championship.
The Thai billionaire erased the club’s debts and won the fans over by giving out free beer and food on special occasions, such as his birthday.
Vichai — a devout Buddhist who often flew monks from Thailand to Leicester to pray for his team — had also been an active supporter of the city’s charities, giving millions of dollars to local hospitals.
In 2014, Leicester City returned to the top of English soccer, The Premier League, and two years later, beat 5000-1 odds to win the title.
In Leicester, you could complain about the manager and criticize players, but no one ever doubted Vichai’s commitment to the club and to the city.
“I remember with fondness a couple of years ago when we all came to Mass dressed in blue, and the great memories we have had as a parish community over the years, especially watching Leicester City Football Club to glories and heights we had never experienced, and that puts a particular edge of sadness on something that has happened here in our community,” said Dominican Father David Rocks at Mass on Sunday at Leicester’s downtown Holy Cross Catholic Church.
The Anglican bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, also offered his condolences.
“In the light of the tragic events at Leicester City Football Club, I know that the prayers of the whole Diocese of Leicester will be with those grieving for loved ones, and with the Emergency Services, and all those involved at the Football Club,” he said.
“We share the sense of shock and grief of the whole city and county. We stand with the Football Club and want to assure them of our support and care at this time,” Snow said.
Rest in peace, Khun Vichai. pic.twitter.com/M6POFQYmkQ
— Leicester City (@LCFC) October 29, 2018
“We will miss Vichai greatly. Let us remember that he has touched the lives of so many,” said a statement from Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the Federation of Muslim Organisations, on behalf of Leicester’s large Muslim community.
“Among his many remarkable achievements, Vichai helped bridge cultural divides and made a big contribution to the community of Leicester,” he continued.
“He won the hearts and minds of all, showing that we can all work together for a common good no matter our background, culture or religion, and as a result, he brought the city together. Vichai felt he could change the community for the better and wanted to be a part of it. He was a role model for many, and his legacy will continue to inspire us all,” Nagdi said.