Nov 3 (Reuters) - After mastering a highly-charged occasion to beat Cardiff City 1-0 on Saturday, Leicester City’s players headed to the airport for what they were clear was the day’s most important engagement.
Manager Claude Puel and the squad were booked on a 9,600km flight to Thailand to pay their respects at the funeral of their late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
They were due to fly exactly a week after the Thai billionaire was one of five people killed in a helicopter crash outside Leicester’s stadium following their 1-1 draw with West Ham United.
The last seven days have been full of outpourings of emotion and Saturday’s game in Cardiff always felt secondary to the heartfelt tributes that preceded it. A wreath was laid on the pitch and a minute’s silence immaculately observed by both sets of fans.
“Every single player wanted to get out there to be at the funeral,” Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel said. “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.
“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.
“That took a lot, so proud of how everyone played today, how professional everyone was. It has been an emotional day and glad we got three points for him.”
British media reported that in the moments after last month’s tragedy, Schmeichel ran towards the downed helicopter in the car park outside the stadium in a brave attempt to see if he could help.
The Dane said Vichai had had a huge influence on the whole squad.
“You come across very few people that impact you,” he said on Saturday. “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 am 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 first funeral ceremony for Vichai was held in Thailand on Saturday. It will be followed by recitation ceremonies over the next seven days.
Reporting by Neil Robinson, editing by Ed Osmond