Thai billionaire Vichai was among five people killed when his helicopter crashed outside Leicester’s King Power Stadium following last Saturday’s match against West Ham.
The horrific accident triggered a week of mourning in Leicester and throughout the world of football but the match in Cardiff went ahead after the midweek League Cup game with Southampton was postponed.
The action on the pitch was totally overshadowed by the tributes for a much-loved chairman but the former Premier League champions held their nerve to earn a narrow win that lifted them to 10th spot.
The decisive moment came 10 minutes into the second half when winger Demarai Gray steered home a neat volley with his left foot beyond goalkeeper Neil Etheridge after a precise low cross from Ben Chilwell.
Gray looked to the heavens and all of Leicester’s players, including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, raced to the corner of the ground where their fans were celebrating.
The scorer was not spared any sentiment however, and was promptly booked for taking his shirt off to reveal a T-shirt that read “For Khun Vichai”.
Denmark international Schmeichel, who was in tears as Leicester’s players and staff locked arms in the centre circle during a poignant minute’s silence before kick-off, said the occasion had been tough for the players to handle.
“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.”
– Thailand funeral –
Most of Leicester’s players, manager Claude Puel and senior staff are due to fly to Thailand for the funeral of Vichai, whose eight-year reign peaked in 2016 when the 5,000-1 outsiders became Premier League champions in astonishing style.
“We had a lot of chances and we deserve this result and it is a fantastic opportunity to honour the chairman,” Puel told Sky Sports.
“Now is just the first step and I hope we can continue next week with the same feeling,” he added.
“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.”
Most Leicester fans wore white T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “The Boss” and a picture of Vichai on the front, and on the back “Khun Vichai, You Will Be Forever In Our Hearts”
The players warmed up in similar T-shirts over their training gear.
A giant Thai flag with both clubs’ crests on it reading “RIP Vichai” was passed from the home fans to the visiting supporters.
Three minutes into the match, Leicester’s fans broke into a rendition of “When You’re Smiling”, the anthem that sound-tracked happier days during the club’s title triumph.
On the hour mark, Leicester fans delivered another tribute to their late owner when they sang “There’s Only One Vichai”, waving their scarves.
After the final whistle, Leicester’s players and staff stood to applaud their fans for several minutes, taking in the chants of “Vichai” and “Champions of England, you made us sing that”.