FOOT­BALL FANS UNITED AF­TER CRASH TRAGEDY

Wales On Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - IAN MITCHELMORE Sports re­porter [email protected]­line.co.uk

LEICES­TER City fans heaped praise on the Cardiff City faith­ful for the way they paid trib­ute to the vic­tims of last week­end’s he­li­copter crash out­side King Power Sta­dium.

Claude Puel’s side took to the field in South Wales for the first time since five peo­ple – in­clud­ing Foxes chair­man Vichai Sri­vad­dhanaprabha – lost their lives as a re­sult of the ac­ci­dent last Satur­day.

Both sets of sup­port­ers showed their re­spects be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the match to those who passed away in the ac­ci­dent.

And Leices­ter fans had noth­ing but praise for the Cardiff faith­ful and the peo­ple of the city for the way they put their foot­ball ri­val­ries aside to join in with the tributes.

Cardiff fans un­furled a gi­ant flag ahead of the game, which they passed along the stand to the away sup­port­ers in a lovely ges­ture.

Avid Leices­ter sup­porter Andy Sala­m­on­czyk said: “It’s been sur­real. It’s still hasn’t sunk in re­ally.

“I was at the game last week and I was in a restau­rant about a mile away from the ground when it hap­pened.

“I got a text from a mate and when I read that, I had no idea it would be as bad as it was.

“But com­ing to Cardiff, it’s re­ally nice, ev­ery­one since I’ve been here has been re­ally wel­com­ing.

“I went into McDon­ald’s and there was a pic­ture of Vichai on the wall. The Cardiff fans have been amaz­ing, it’s a re­ally nice thing to do (the flag ges­ture).”

Chris Stans­field, a Leices­ter fan for 45 years, com­mented: “We’ve had fan­tas­tic sup­port from all of the other clubs, Cardiff es­pe­cially. The sup­port has been great.”

And speak­ing im­me­di­ately af­ter his side’s win, Lenny Greet said: “This week, the shrine out­side the club and the way ev­ery­one has come to­gether has been great.

“The Cardiff fans and their ban­ners were bril­liant. Ev­ery­body’s made us wel­come and re­spected.

“The chair­man did a lot for the char­i­ties of Leices­ter, he did a lot for English foot­ball when we won the league and gave peo­ple hope.”

It was an emo­tion­ally charged day from start to fin­ish, with both sets of sup­port­ers ap­plaud­ing in uni­son out­side the ground as Leices­ter’s team bus ar­rived at Cardiff City Sta­dium prior to the game.

In ad­di­tion to im­pec­ca­bly ob­serv­ing a minute’s si­lence be­fore kick-off, Cardiff fans in the Ninian Stand un­furled the gi­ant flag that fea­tured the club crests of both sides and a flag of Thai­land along with the mes­sage “RIP Vichai” in hon­our of Thai busi­ness­man Sri­vad­dhanaprabha.

Af­ter the game, Steve Howe, a Leices­ter sup­porter since 1969, spoke about how he and other Foxes fans re­ceived a ter­rific wel­come from the lo­cals in Cardiff.

He said: “Both sets of fans were bril­liant. It’s been a per­fect day re­ally.

“We stopped in a rugby club nearby be­fore the game and they made us feel very wel­come. They even kept Pre­mier League Years on the telly from when we won the league! The play­ers have been great to get back up on their feet, it’s a per­fect send-off.

“It was a bit of a som­bre trip down, but since we got here it’s been great. Ev­ery­one pulled to­gether. Even the Cardiff fans did their bit to­day.”

And Mark Gilbert, from Hinck­ley, echoed those thoughts.

“The tributes were ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic. Ev­ery­one was very wel­com­ing and it’s been a very great but emo­tional day,” he said.

“To­day’s been a mas­sive day for ev­ery­body. To hon­our Vichai with a good per­for­mance and come away with a vic­tory is ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic for the club.

“It’s been an emo­tional day for ev­ery­body con­cerned. For the whole of Le­ices­ter­shire and the whole na­tion re­ally.”

An­other Leices­ter fan, Dave Stan­away, sim­ply said: “We were a foot­ball fam­ily to­day. We won, but does it re­ally mat­ter? No. It was just about be­ing there. We’ve all seen what’s hap­pened at the King Power Sta­dium with the tributes, and ev­ery­one went down in their own time, but we all needed to be to­gether to­day.”

SI­MON GAL­LOWAY

Leices­ter City play­ers and staff stand with Cardiff City play­ers and match of­fi­cials dur­ing the minute’s si­lence

A minute’s si­lence at the start of the game

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