SPORT

Leicester held by Burnley on day of tributes to late Thai owner

LEICESTER HELD BY BURNLEY ON DAY OF TRIBUTES TO LATE THAI OWNER

Leicester City rode a wave of emotion on Saturday but were unable to break the deadlock against Burnley in their first home match since owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was killed in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium.

A special tribute video was shown on big screens before kick-off, two weeks after his aircraft plummeted to the ground and burst into flames just moments after taking off from the pitch.

With football kits from many different clubs ringing the perimeter of the pitch, a huge banner was unfurled reading: "Khun Vichai, Forever in our Hearts" as former Leicester managers including Premier League-winning Claudio Ranieri looked on.

Vichai's son Aiyawatt, the club's vice-chairman who is known as Top, carried out one of a series of floral tributes.

Then the entire stadium fell silent for two minutes to remember Vichai and the four others killed in the crash as well as servicemen and women who have died in battle on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Fans turned the stands into a sea of white during the silence, holding aloft special scarves dedicated to their former owner, who made their impossible Premier League dream a reality just two years ago.

The first half of the match itself was relatively uneventful but the atmosphere built as the second half wore on, with fans desperate to honour Vichai with a victory.

Leicester produced wave upon wave of attacks but few clear-cut chances and had to settle for a 0-0 draw on a day when the result was secondary.

- TRIBUTE MARCH -
Earlier, supporters braved the pouring rain as they made their way through the streets towards the ground holding Leicester flags and wearing club shirts, some with "Vichai" on the back.

There was a subdued atmosphere but pockets of chanting, including "We love you Leicester, we do", "I'm Leicester till I die" and simply "Vichai".

Under Vichai's ownership, Leicester produced one of the biggest upsets in English football history by winning the 2015/16 Premier League, having started the season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title.

Saturday's walk was called the 5,000-1 walk in recognition of that astonishing achievement.

The charismatic Thai had become a beloved figure in the club and the city -- a feat rarely achieved by Premier League clubs' often distant billionaire owners.

Stories have emerged of his acts of generosity to the club's supporters and players and sizeable donations he made to local hospitals.

"No chairman has done what he's done with Leicester City. I respect all he's done and not just for the football club, also charity-wise," said fan Jake Tilson, 35. "He's a legend."

"I think football can learn from him and the way he gave to the local community."

Another supporter, Don Martin, said: "It seems like it's a celebration but it's one of the saddest days for the club. It's recognition for the chairman.

"I'm confident about the future. Top (Vichai's son) and the rest of the family will carry on his father's legacy. There is no doubt about that," added the 57-year-old.

On Friday, the club announced plans to erect a statue of Vichai at the stadium.

Top, writing in Saturday's special matchday programme, said: "We will never be able to repay what he did for us -- for me as his son, us as his family, everyone connected to Leicester City and beyond -- but we are committed to honouring his memory and upholding his legacy."

Manager Claude Puel wrote: "He (Vichai) may not be here in person today but he will be here in spirit and we will carry his essence in our hearts."

The team, 10th in the Premier League going into the weekend's fixtures, returned to action last weekend, beating Cardiff 1-0 away from home.

A number of players, including Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel, and manager Puel then travelled to Thailand to attend Vichai's funeral.

Mourners have turned Leicester's stadium into a shrine, carpeting the ground with floral tributes and messages of thanks.

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