Duke And Duchess Pay Tribute To "Caring" Vichai

28 November 2018, 17:16 | Updated: 28 November 2018, 17:18

Will and Kate Vichai

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made an emotional pilgrimage to pay tribute to Leicester City's owner, following in the footsteps of thousands of the football club's fans.


William and Kate were left visibly moved at the start of their visit to the city which was united in grief following the helicopter crash which claimed the life of billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others, also remembered by the couple.

After sharing a few minutes with the owner's family, his son Aiyawatt, wife Aimon and daughter Aroonroong, the Cambridges left a bouquet of flowers and a condolence card among a sea of other floral tributes close to the crash site.



During their time at the club they met charities and fans who benefited from Vichai's generosity and William told one charity boss "he was the gel, the glue of the community".


He added: "If only more owners took his example of how to benefit the community, be involved".

The duke, who is president of the FA, had known the Leicester City owner over the past five years and had caught up with him at Kensington Palace, to discuss his charity work and football, just a few weeks before the crash in October.

The other four victims were club employees Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and his partner Izabela Roza Lechowicz, who was also a professional pilot.

In a speech to senior officials from the club, including the club's star striker and England forward Jamie Vardy, William highlighted Leicester City's incredible Premier League triumph.

He said: "In 2016, this football club did something that should have been impossible.

"Against odds that are now the stuff of legend, you took on the Goliaths and superstars of the world's most famous football league.

"In powering past them all to win the title, you wrote the best underdog story in the history of modern sport.

"And when the man that led this club to victory died so tragically, the people of this city revealed with their outpouring of admiration, that they too shared much of the character that was so central to who Vichai was.

"In a time when our football clubs have become huge global enterprises, you came out to thank Vichai for making the fans the true owners of this club.

"And you thanked him for investing the rewards of success in the future of Leicester City."

"You showed that community mattered to him and to you all."

William, a former air ambulance helicopter pilot, revealed he had flown in the past with Mr Swaffer, describing the experience as a "privilege".

Even though he no longer flies professionally the duke still takes to the skies to keep up his flying hours, and flew with Mr Swaffer a few months before the crash.

After leaving their floral tribute William and Kate met some of the dozens of volunteers who helped to move the floral tributes from outside the football club's stadium to a nearby site.

Leicester City season ticket holder Kev Butler, 51, said: "There are clubs with load and loads of money but it's not about money, it's about how you treat the fans, how you look after the fans, so these people have been superb."

He and former colleague Paul Groves, 67, showed the duchess their commemorative black and white scarves, which read Mr Chairman.

Mr Butler said about Kate: "She was just sharing the compassion with everyone.

"She seemed to feel it, she looked quite emotional, she felt what we were feeling."

Leicester City season ticket holder Fiona Sturgess, 48, revealed Prince George had thought his father might be playing football during his trip to Leicester.

Ms Sturgess was among the volunteers, invited to meet the royal couple, who had supported their club in the aftermath of the helicopter crash.

After speaking to the duchess, who wore a Catherine Walker coat, the football fan added: "Kate said that William was playing football with the children last night and one of them said, I think it was George, 'Are you playing football tomorrow, Pops?'"

Mimicking the duchess's eyebrow raise, she added: "She said 'no!'"

Before leaving the King Power stadium the duke and duchess were given Leicester City tops for their children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and baby Prince Louis.

William, an avid Aston Villa fan, joked "They'll be fighting over the Leicester and Aston Villa kits".

The pair then headed to Leicester University where the Duchess received a surprise kiss from a six-year-old boy who has benefited from a £1 million donation by the late Leicester City owner.

Will and Kate met the Gokani family who told her how the donation has helped them with childcare.

Mr Srivaddhanaprabha made the donation to support the university's efforts to treat and research life-threatening illnesses, which led to the creation of the Leicester City Football Club Professorship in Child Health.

Before leaving the university's library, Sai Gokani, along with his twin brother Rian, presented flowers to the Duchess.

Despite originally leading with a handshake, Sai decided to lean in for a kiss on the cheek - which Kate reciprocated.

Prior to the impromptu kiss, the Cambridges had met different groups to discuss some of the projects Mr Srivaddhanaprabha helped support.

Kate learnt about his £1 million donation while the duke watched a short demonstration on how to administer CPR.

The couple then spoke to Suzie Imber, an associate professor in space physics, about a programme which helps children learn and develop life skills - including the use of a marshmallow to explain how lungs would explode if exposed in space.

"The question is, who is going to eat the marshmallow?" the duke joked.

After then meeting students from the university, the duke and duchess made their way outside to meet hundreds of students and staff who had waited for their arrival.

Large numbers of people braved the cold and wet conditions to catch a glimpse of William and Kate as they began their walk across Centenary Square.

There were loud cheers as the couple made their way down the steps from the library, and the majority of the students in attendance took their phones out to get pictures and selfies with the couple in the background.