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Football world mourns Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, owner who made Leicester fairytale possible

The footballing world, along with the Midlands town in which he had become a folk hero, is mourning the loss...

Posted: Oct 29, 2018 12:51 PM
Updated: Oct 29, 2018 12:51 PM

The footballing world, along with the Midlands town in which he had become a folk hero, is mourning the loss of Leicester City owner and chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in a helicopter accident Saturday night.

The club's beloved owner was on board his helicopter, which lost control and crashed into a parking lot near the King Power Stadium on Saturday, a statement released by the club said Sunday.

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Srivaddhanaprabha, a retail magnate and billionaire from Thailand, was one of five people on board the aircraft when it burst into flames after crashing, the club said. No one on board survived.

"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 statement described the chairman as a "a man of kindness, of generosity and a man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and those he so successfully led."

A book of condolences will be opened at the King Power Stadium starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, October 30, the club said.

Players taking part in Monday's league game between Manchester City and Spurs will wear black armbands as a sign of respect.

Universal love, respect

A huge outpouring of love for the man who transformed the Foxes' fortunes -- leading to an against-all-odds, fairytale triumph in the Premier League in the 2015-16 season -- was evident at the stadium and online, as fans and football luminaries alike paid tribute.

Premier League Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore released a statement saying the league was devastated by the news.

"Our deepest condolences and heartfelt thoughts go to the Srivaddhanaprabha family and all the relatives and friends of those involved in this tragic accident," a statement read.

"Vichai was a gentleman who graced the game with his civility and charm and we will miss him enormously. His impact on Leicester -- the football club and city -- will be remembered forever."

Liverpool's American owners, John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Mike Gordon also issued a statement.

"The admiration we have for Vichai, his family and colleagues is as high as you can imagine, both professionally and personally.

"He was the ultimate custodian for the club he bought and then gracefully served. The Premier League title win, one of world football's all-time great stories, is of course the standout achievement.

"But beyond that, he led his club in a manner which all of us in this privileged position aspire to. Success on the pitch, allied with outstanding governance off it."

Premier League stars also paid their respects. Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah called it a "truly sad day for football," in a tweet.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those who tragically passed away," he wrote.

Leicester players express their heartbreak

Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who reportedly witnessed the crash, wrote a letter to Srivaddhanaprabha expressing his sadness.

"I just cannot believe what I saw last night. ... It is difficult to put into words how much you have meant to this football club and the city of Leicester.

"Never have I ever come across a man like you. So hardworking, so dedicated, so passionate, so kind and so generous in the extreme."

Striker Jamie Vardy, an integral part of the team that won the Premier League crown against all odds, called the club's owner a legend and "the heart and soul of Leicester City."

Defender Danny Simpson also paid tribute to the man who had owned the club for eight years:

"Thank you for everything you have done for me, the players, the fans, the club and the whole city of Leicester.

"You made mine and everyone else's dream come true. I am devastated and can't quite process what has happened but we will do our best to help this club grow. RIP #TheBoss"

Forward James Maddison also expressed how much the "boss'" death had impacted him.

"Devastated and heartbroken at the news that no one survived the helicopter crash yesterday. Life isn't fair sometimes. A wonderful thoughtful man who lived and breathed Leicester City Football Club. Rest in Peace Boss."

Football fans reach across the divide

Fans of Leicester City came together with supporters of other clubs to express their sympathy, many focusing on the positive impact Srivaddhanaprabha had on the Midlands town.

In addition to the growing memorial at the King Power Stadium, fans of all stripes posted their messages of condolence online.

Leicester-based Muhamid Pathan tweeted that he was "deeply saddened to hear" the news about a "man who gave so much to the city -- unforgettable memories & enormous charitable donations."

Fan Ryan Redman said he "was fortunate enough to witness the positive impact he had on the city of Leicester."

Sheffield Wednesday fan Jordan Bellamy saidivaddhanaprabha had given Leicester fans "the best surprise" but also "all football fans the best football fairytale story ever," adding that he hoped the example would serve as inspiration for other clubs to "do a Leicester" and punch above their weight.

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