Leicester's trip to Cardiff fraught with emotion as club come to terms with Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha's tragic death
For the players and staff of Leicester City, the task is to go on, to resume their jobs, their normal existence, not forgetting what they lost, but honouring memories by going on
Life goes on. It can feel one of the more banal truisms. It can also be one of the more admirable features of life in the United Kingdom. When tragedy strikes, many merely resume their day-to-day existence, uncowed and unbowed by the vicissitudes of fate. It was notable after last year’s Manchester Arena bombing and terror attacks in London. Life went on, at least for those who survived.
Sport is often said to mirror society. For the players and staff of Leicester City, the task is to go on, to resume their jobs, their normal existence, not forgetting what they lost, but honouring memories by going on. They return to the football field Saturday against Cardiff City with the direction set by the bereaved.
Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was one of five killed in Saturday’s helicopter crash. Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, his son and Leicester’s vice-chairman, said in an Instagram post: “He has left me with a legacy to continue and I will do everything I can to carry on his big vision and dreams.” It is about carrying on, perhaps with more of a cause.
None of which makes it easy to return to normality. Perhaps it is for the best that Leicester are at the Cardiff City Stadium, some 150 miles away from the scene of the fateful flight, distanced from the shrine to Srivaddhanaprabha. Next Saturday’s meeting with Burnley at the King Power Stadium may contain more tributes to a man who contributed to a club, a community, a city. It could be more emotional.
'There was a big bang': Helicopter belonging to Leicester City owner crashes near stadium
Every individual is different. Some will be fuelled by extra motivation, others seeking to block out everything that has happened to focus on performing with professional competence. For everyone involved, these are unprecedented circumstances. There is no formula to follow, no blueprint to borrow, no team-talk to copy.
Spare a thought for Claude Puel. There were suggestions on Saturday the Leicester manager had been on the helicopter. There have been reports in recent weeks that his position was coming under scrutiny. October produced a solitary point. Under other circumstances, a run of games against Cardiff, Burnley, Brighton & Hove Albion, Watford and Fulham would seem an opportunity for renewal.
Now the context has changed. His decision-making has to be different. This is not about tactics, not about if Cardiff will play one striker or two, but more human elements. Some of Puel’s players have seen a grief counsellor. It is clear how close many were to Srivaddhanaprabha; these were not normal owner-player relationships.
Puel may wonder if newcomers such as Caglar Soyuncu, Jonny Evans, Ricardo Pereira, James Maddison and Rachid Ghezzal may be less affected than Kasper Schmeichel, who rushed to the scene of the crash and delivered a wonderfully moving tribute on social media. Yet captain Wes Morgan, as indelibly associated with the 2016 Premier League title win as the late chairman and another symbol of a club that confounded expectations, is available again after suspension. The sentimental would like to see the remnants of the class of 2016 selected.
Under other circumstances, Puel’s decision to bench Jamie Vardy for Saturday’s draw against West Ham would have been one of the talking points. The striker, who changed his Twitter avatar to a picture of him with Srivaddhanaprabha, was another who owed a debt of gratitude to a father figure. His old sidekick Riyad Mahrez dedicated his winner for Manchester City against Tottenham to Srivaddhanaprabha. His former manager Claudio Ranieri went to Chelsea against Derby County on Wednesday. As Carlo Ancelotti, a winner with a healthy sense of perspective, once said: “Football is the most important of the less important things in life.” But, hard as it is at times like these, life goes on.
Updated: November 1, 2018 02:49 PM