Kasper Schmeichel dedicated Leicester City’s emotional 1-0 win at Cardiff City to the club’s late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his grieving family.
Thai billionaire Vichai was among five people killed when his helicopter crashed outside Leicester City’s King Power Stadium following last Saturday evenings’s match against West Ham United.
With Srivaddhanaprabha’s funeral underway yesterday in Bangkok, Leicester headed to Cardiff for a match that served as a chance to honour him and begin the healing process.
Leicester took the points in their first match since Srivaddhanaprabha’s death thanks to Demarai Gray’s second-half winner.
Leicester goalkeeper Schmeichel has felt the tragedy more than most as one of the only players to witness the immediate aftermath of the crash moments after the helicopter went down.
And the Denmark international was in tears as Leicester’s players and staff locked arms in the centre circle during a poignant minute’s silence before kick-off.
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“I feel proud. It’s been a really tough week for everyone. The way everyone at the club handles themselves is a testament to the family Vichai built,” Schmeichel said.
“You come across very few people that impact you. He had a really big impact on my life.
“You can see from the reaction that he had an impact on so many lives. I’m immensely proud to have known him.
“I can’t imagine what his family are going through, we did it for him and his family.”
The majority of Leicester’s players, manager Claude Puel and senior staff were due to fly to Thailand immediately after the Cardiff match to join what is likely to be a week-long funeral for Srivaddhanaprabha.
Schmeichel admitted he was relieved Leicester were able to mark the sombre occasion in the only way they could - by playing at their best in memory of Srivaddhanaprabha.
“That took a lot. It has been an emotional day and glad we got three points for him,” he said. “Every single player wanted to get out there to be at the funeral.
We are glad we’ve come away today from a really tough game with a win we can bring to Thailand and hope we did the family proud.”
Schmeichel added he and his teammates had been anxious to take up the opportunity to be able to pay their respects to Srivaddhanaprabha and his family in Thailand.
“Everyone grieves in different ways and the opportunity was given and we wanted to go,” he added. “We are a family and wanted to pay our last respects together.”
Claude Puel, the Leicester manager, said he was proud of how his players had focused on the job in hand on the pitch, and acknowledged they would need to do the same next Saturday when they play Burnley in the first home game since the tragedy.
“It is a good balance between emotion and concentration which is difficult, now is just the first step and I hope we can continue next week with the same feeling,” Puel said. “It will be difficult because we come back from Bangkok in the middle of the week for our first home game and we know before and after we have events to honour the chairman and it will be important to keep our self-control.”