Dubai: It cannot be an easy life being a Premier League footballer, but few will have a tougher moment than when the Leicester City players step onto the field for the match against Cardiff City on Saturday.
United in grief following the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who was killed along with four others in a helicopter crash after last weekend’s draw with West Ham United, Claude Puel’s men have shown great strength after what must be the most harrowing week in the club’s history, and have vowed to play to honour their chairman in Cardiff.
At times like this, the significance of results pale in comparison to the realities of such a tragedy — as Cardiff boss Neil Warnock rightly said: “It is only a game of football.” — but this 90 minutes will mean so much more to the club that defied all the odds to win the Premier League title in 2016, their fans and those of other clubs around the world. It will allow those directly affected by the tragedy to come together to mourn and reflect, it will allow others around the globe to truly see what he meant to the club, and it will allow everyone to commemorate a man who instilled a belief in small clubs that nothing is impossible and dreams can come true.
Leicester striker Jamie Vardy opened up on Friday about the decision to play and how the team are unified in the desire to honour the memory of Vichai.
“It has been without doubt the hardest week of my life,” the striker told Sky Sports on Friday. “I still can’t believe it has happened.
“Top [Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the chairman’s son] knows whatever he needs, everyone is with him and we need to continue that now and make Vichai proud.
“I was just on my way home with my wife and kids and I got the news.
“We all spoke about wanting to play, it’s what Vichai would’ve wanted and that’s what we are going to do.
“We need to make sure we go out there and honour his name and put in a performance that will hopefully get the win. I know people are saying the result doesn’t matter but for us as players we want to get a positive result. It’s going to be tough and very emotional and what the lads wanted to do was play this game and honour the man himself.
A minute’s silence will be observed before kick-off at the Cardiff City Stadium and players will wear black armbands in Vichai’s honour.
“Playing football has not been on our minds this last week but for this weekend and all matches after we will play to honour and remember a man who did so much for our club,” Puel said.
“The result is not important, but our desire to give our best to honour our chairman, that is the most important thing.”
These sentiments are so true, and on top of it all it may help provide the players, club and Vivchai’s family get a little bit of closure and solace after a horrendous seven days.