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Remembering Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha: the man who defined a city

On Sunday 28th October, it was confirmed that the owner and Chairman of Leicester City Football Club, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was killed in a tragic helicopter accident that took place after Leicester’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United on Saturday night at the King Power Stadium.

Four others also on board all tragically passed away. The outpouring of grief for Srivaddhanaprabha has touched millions of football supporters on an international scale. It’s unusual for a football club’s owner—they usually operate behind-the-scenes and are regularly criticised—to impact as many people as Vichai did in his eight years of ownership of Leicester City, though he was no ordinary football chairman. Here are just a few of the selfless acts that cemented a place the Thai businessman a place in the hearts of so many.

Hospital donations

Srivaddhanaprabha is believed to have donated £1 million to Leicester Royal Infirmary in 2016, which was announced at Leicester City’s end-of-season awards from their remarkable title-winning season. Furthermore, he donated £2 million of the £10 million needed to build a new children’s hospital in the city, demonstrating the connection between the club’s owner and the area. With an estimated net worth of £2.9 billion, such acts of generosity were hardly out of Srivaddhanaprabha’s reach, though his impact on the city will live on for generations. In football, it’s not rare for wealthy owners of clubs to be despised by the supporters and the people of that particular city (just look at Mike Ashley at Newcastle United), but the connection between the Srivaddhanaprabha family and Leicester was very real and tangible, and Vichai’s acts of generosity only serve to reinforce this. While he will always be remembered for what he brought to Leicester on the pitch, it’s Srivaddhanaprabha’s generosity away from football which will leave a life-saving legacy.

University of Leicester

As well as donating money to healthcare in Leicester, the Srivaddhanaprabha family gave the University of Leicester £1 million to support their medical research. Consequently, he was awarded as an honorary Doctorate of Law by the university. In a statement, the Vice-Chancellor Paul Boyle paid tribute to him. He said: ‘Everyone at the University of Leicester is shocked and saddened by this terrible news. Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his family have done so much for the city’. He continued by saying: ‘We will be forever grateful to him and Leicester City Football Club for their overwhelming support to improve healthcare in Leicestershire. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with all those that lost their lives, the Srivaddhanaprabha family, Leicester City Football Club and everyone affected by the incident. In 2016, the university recognised his immense contribution with the award of an honorary degree, and now we mourn the passing of a very special man’.

A footballing fairytale

It truly says something about Srivaddhanaprabha that one of the biggest sporting achievements of all time comes at the bottom of a list of his contributions to the city, but his charitable nature has come to mean just as much. That being said, no sports fan will ever be able to forget Leicester’s 2015-16 Premier League winning season. Being ranked as 5000-1 outsiders simply did not prevent the club from achieving seemingly the impossible by beating the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to the title. A team of misfits starring former non-league forward Jamie Vardy and £400,000 winger Riyad Mahrez romped to the top of the table early on and soon became almost unstoppable, controlled by the ever-present Frenchman N’Golo Kanté and managed by the previously-mocked Claudio Ranieri. Given the fact that Leicester looked certain to go down until the very end of the previous season with a so-called ‘great escape’ needed to keep them in the Premier League at all, their title win looks all the more staggering. The team, bankrolled and supported by Srivaddhanaprabha, gave a city and indeed the world a fairytale that has since gone unmatched, and may well go unmatched for a very, very long time. The emotional reactions of Vardy and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in the days after the accident say so much about the man they called ‘the Boss’.

Rest in peace, Vichai.

Featured image: koharoon / Shutterstock.com