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Leicester City players fly to owner’s funeral in Thailand

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Media captionEmotional Leicester team observe silence at Cardiff

Leicester City players and officials are flying to Thailand to attend the funeral of the club’s owner who died in a helicopter crash.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s funeral began at a Bangkok temple on Saturday with Buddhist bathing rituals and will be followed by recitation ceremonies.

Players will be attending services on Sunday and Monday after beating Cardiff 1-0 in the first game since his death.

Before the match they wore T-shirts featuring a picture of Mr Vichai.

They stood for a minute’s silence along with Leicester City staff and fans ahead of the kick-off.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Flowers and a photograph of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha were placed next to his urn at the temple in Bangkok
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel wore his shirt during the warm-up

Mr Vichai died with two members of his staff, the pilot and a passenger when the helicopter crashed moments after taking off from the King Power Stadium on 27 October.

His funeral began with a bathing rite ceremony and will be followed by recitation ceremonies over seven days.

The ceremony was held behind closed doors and a special funeral urn and also a five-tiered umbrella, which reflected his high status, was used.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Aimon Srivaddhanaprabha (L), the wife of Mr Vichai, during his funeral rite
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mourners could be seen through a glass door at Mr Vichai’s funeral

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the manager of Thailand’s women’s football team, and the president of the Football Association of Thailand were among the guests.

Leicester City players and club officials are expected to arrive back in the UK on Tuesday morning.

Mr Vichai’s body arrived in Thailand on Friday ahead of the funeral.

At the scene

By Jonathan Head, BBC South East Asia correspondent, Bangkok

The start of this lengthy funeral was in stark contrast to the emotional scenes witnessed at the Leicester City stadium.

It began with a stately bathing ceremony for Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s body at a royal temple in Bangkok, attended by his family and a few senior political and business figures.

They poured holy water donated by King Maha Vajiralongkorn over flowers adorning the coffin, which was inscribed with the initials VS, and the simple words, “the possible man”, reflecting his business and sporting success.

This Buddhist funeral serves an important religious function for the deceased, with rituals like the nightly chanting by monks accumulating merit for him. But it serves a social function too, affirming the status he achieved, in particular by getting royal sponsorship.

Mr Vichai had a quite different image in Thailand than he had in Britain, a private and cunning entrepreneur who cultivated powerful connections to see off challenges to his lucrative duty-free monopoly, through which he became very rich, very quickly.

There is little of the public affection and gratitude on display here that has been so visible in Britain. But when the Leicester City team arrives in Thailand to attend the funeral, Thais will be reminded of just how much this improbable hero meant to football fans on the other side of the world.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha bought Leicester City in 2010

Nusara Suknamai, Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, also died in the crash last Saturday.

The wreckage of the helicopter was removed from outside the stadium on Friday.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has begun examining parts of the aircraft and the in-flight recorder.

Image copyright King Power
Image caption Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan poured royal water on flowers by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s urn
Image copyright King Power
Image caption Royal officials arrived with offerings for the funeral ceremony of Leicester City’s Thai owner

All this weekend’s Premier League games will be preceded by a minute’s silence, or applause, and players will wear black armbands.

When Leicester fans arrived at the King Power Stadium before making the journey to the game in Cardiff, they were given free breakfast by the club.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Foxes fans were given free breakfast at the King Power Stadium

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-46082866

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