Pilgrimage to Cardiff

Foxes Trust Board Member Colin Murrant’s thoughts…

I guess Leicester Fans could have bought their ticket allocation out many times once the Club confirmed the match would be played, it almost became a pilgrimage. A match you just wanted to be there, just like the thousands who wanted to be there at the King Power during the week to pay their respects. The following text documents my personal experience of Saturday; the reasons for the love and respect of Khun Vichai and his achievements have been well recorded elsewhere.

There is no script for grieving, particularly for someone you have never spoken to. Some comfortably cope with death if it is not one of their family members, others get emotional to the point of tears: for better or worse I find myself in the latter group. Not always, but sometimes events, inspirational acts just make the eyes fill with tears. And so, the week following the tragic crash the tears had flown many times.

The journey to Cardiff was not at all emotional, Cross Country trains made sure of that. I met my son at Cardiff station and we went to the ground to pick a ticket up before joining some Welsh friends we had not seen for a few years. Arriving at the stadium at the same time was the Leicester City team coach. Both sets of fans and Bartley Bluebird (club mascot) had assembled near the player’s entrance and all broke into applause as the coach pulled slowly into its parking place. The accord between the fans, and the arrival of those players who had made the brave decision to play, was the first opportunity for the lump in the throat to make an appearance.

Walking to the away end it was noticeable that other fans you know, or normally just shake hands with, wanted to chat, wanted to hug. Inside and immediately you were met with the staff handing ‘The Boss’ t-shirts out, by the time I got there just XXXL size remained, not flattering for the figure but large enough to comfortably cover outer-clothing; a further layer most welcome with the strong wind. Through that queue and there was another one, this time for most welcome food, supplied free by Cardiff consisting of a soft drink, sausage roll, crisps and chocolate bars. given to all those who wanted them.

As it turned out this was not the Cardiff Remembrance match, that is this coming Saturday, so pre-match minute’s silence was for Vichai alone.  As the teams came out huge banners appeared, one from Leicester and one from Cardiff. Cardiff passed along the stands to the Foxes Fans, the Thai flag flanked each side by one of the two club badges. Leicester’s was an enormous Thai flag, both carried messages to Vichai. The minutes silence was impeccably respected by all, the large screen had a picture and further message in respect of the chairman. Respectfully, Cardiff showed pictures of all 5 of the travelling companions as the stadium announcer read their names out.

What was different to any other minute’s silence was that the whole of the Leicester football staff and players who had travelled, joined the team on the centre circle, probably 40 or more people. This was the start for more tears and, like yawning, the sobbing was almost contagious. Nobody in the crowd would see Kasper and others fighting the tears in the centre circle until they saw MOTD. What was obvious to those close to the Admin Staff, was that many of them were equally distraught.

As the match was played out there was great respect between supporters and it was clear the whole occasion was surreal. There were of course moments when the cordially stopped for a moment, a bad tackle, a disputed decision, a player going down injured, but as play continued mutual respect was quickly restored.

Demari’s goal was the moment the tension, the raw emotion was released. His and the player’s delight was explosive, never have I seen Albrighton so animated, never have I seen Kasper literally run the full length of the pitch to join the celebrations, a brief pat on the head to his colleagues and he was sprinting back to his goal.

The final whistle went and the City players applauded the Cardiff fans as they made their way to the City faithful. Then occurred one of those moments that you will never forget if you were there. The whole of the aforementioned playing staff joined the players in front of the Foxes fans and joined in the mutual applause and chanting. This lasted for about 10 minutes, it was as if the emotion lifted and Khun Vichai’s family grew closer; united in their mourning yes but gaining strength from solidarity and love of this great club. Players took banners and scarves thrown to them, even Bartley Bluebird joined in the clapping. How apt it was that Andy King was there as is name was chanted; the longest serving player, the one that was there when Vichai bought the club and, of course, we were in Wales.

On the train, and back at the station, it was Cardiff, Welsh and Scotland Rugby fans that wanted to talk to you, to commiserate, to shake your hand. It was like you were everyone’s friend. Cardiff City as a club, as players, as fans were without fault, they understood what the tragedy meant to Leicester City and did everything respectfully and can be very proud.

What we have witnessed with Leicester City in the last few years has been beyond belief, when you get over one story another one appears to be already in the making. There is no script for what we have witnessed – The despair of the Kermorgant Penalty (ironically at Cardiff), the 30 seconds of disbelief at Watford, the record-breaking Championship win, the great escape, The Premier League title, the Vardy 11 match goal scoring run, the European Tour, and now the Tragedy. There is no script, that may be why some of us just have a few tears now and again.

Leicester ‘til I Die