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At Leicester City sombre supporters return to the King Power with no match to be played, united in grief

Leicester supporters had gathered outside the King Power Stadium when those most unlikely of champions were crowned in 2016. They returned on Sunday, in the club’s darkest hour

Mark Critchley
King Power Stadium
Sunday 28 October 2018 17:31 GMT
Foxes Trust Fan Organisation Vice Chair Matt Davis reacts to Leicester City helicopter crash

At around 12.30pm, the members of security staff at King Power Stadium extended the perimeter around the tributes to the Srivaddhanaprabha family, as more Leicester City supporters arrived to quietly lay shirts, wreaths and flowers.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the club's Thai owner, is understood to have been one of five people on board the helicopter which crashed nearby the stadium on Saturday night, an hour after Leicester’s draw with West Ham United.

As of Sunday evening Leicestershire Police had yet to confirm whether anyone had survived the crash, but the mood on a concourse outside the stadium, where thousands of fans came and went throughout day, was sombre.

An image of the Hindu god Ganesh was among the first tributes to appear. Hundreds more followed, with their own messages of condolence and support.

An image of the Hindu god Ganesh propped up outside the stadium (AFP/Getty)

“You made our dreams come true,” one read, referencing the club's remarkable Premier League title win from 5,000-1 outsiders in 2016, a story which captured imaginations around the world. “We are heartbroken but forever grateful.”

Leicester supporters had gathered in that spot outside the King Power Stadium when those most unlikely of champions were crowned. They returned on Sunday, united in grief.

Ian Dunk, a Leicester fan of 40 years, was one of the many to pay respect. “There are so many owners at football clubs who just seem to be in it for the money,” he said.

“These were genuine people that care and put so much into Leicester and the community. He was just a deeply loved man. This is the first time I've really felt we have owners who love us back.

“I never come down to things like this but I just had to do something. Football's my life, Leicester City has been my life for so long and what can you do apart from show your respects? My wife is here as well, she's deeply upset. We just had to show some acknowledgement."

Theresa Shearer, another supporter, also feared the worst. She pointed to the Srivaddhanaprabhas' contribution to the city as well as the club. The family, which owns the King Power duty-free retailer, donated £2m to build a children's hospital in the city

“They're not just a name behind something, there's a face and personality,” she said. “It's like they say, like a family member really. They've done so much, they're just so kind and giving, they don't want anything back. It's just so sad. They've got time for everybody and everything Leicester."

“My son worked here for a while, a life-long Leicester fan, he's now a football coach,” she added. “They give opportunities to people and help them with their dreams.”

Flowers and scarves from clubs at home and abroad were laid in tribute (AFP/Getty)

The sense was that this was a community grieving, not just a club. Response pastors from a local church milled around among the supporters, offering a kind word to anyone on their own or who seemed visibly upset. They had come down after their usual Sunday morning service to help.

There were the tributes from the wider football world too. Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Coventry City, Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs and even Inter Milan were represented by the shirts and scarves on display.

“Football comes together,” Dunk said. “We have rivalries, we sing songs at each other but at the end of the day we all love football.” His own message read: 'We share your love and we share your pain.' “That's how I felt this morning when I woke up.”

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