One of the reasons that people love sports so much is for the camaraderie that builds between fans and the club that they support. Part of the reason that I became a fan of soccer is for just that reason.
Everyone has heard of Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Boca Juniors and other well known teams from around the world. They have legions of fans, supporters all over the world and lots of money. However, there are tons of smaller teams throughout the world that do not have a global following or rich club owners. What they do have in common with the big clubs, is a supportive fan base.
Take for example, Chapecoense who currently play in Brazil’s Serie A. The small club from the south of Brazil has only been around since 1973 and for the most part played in obscurity in Brazil’s lower divisions. That was until they won promotion to the top league in 2014. They then became a Cinderella story when they reached the finals of the Copa Sudamericana in 2016.
Unfortunately the world learned about Chapecoense when the team’s plane crashed on its way to the finals in Colombia. 71 people were killed including almost the entire team. The outpouring from the soccer world was heartfelt and showed that the results on the pitch are always secondary to the human side of the game.
Similar scenes played out over the past two weeks at Leicester City. The team’s owner and chairman was one of five who lost their lives following a tragic helicopter crash outside of Leicester’s stadium.
The Foxes have been around in one form or another since 1884, but it wasn’t until Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha that the club gained worldwide prominence and acclaim. Defying the odds, Leicester City pulled off one of the greatest sporting miracles by winning the Premier League trophy for the 2015-2016 season.
Srivaddhanaprabha and his family were loved by Leicester supporters. The chairman attended many matches and would often leave the stadium by helicopter at the conclusion of matches. That is what he was doing when tragedy struck.
The outpouring from the players, the fans and the community of Leicester are proof that the club is more than just a sports entity. They are a family.
Flowers, scarves, t-shirts and more were laid outside the stadium in the chairman’s memory. Leicester players and the manager made the 6000 mile trip to the funeral in Bangkok at the conclusion of a match and then yesterday the city came together in tribute.
50,000 fans walked from Leicester city centre to the King Power Stadium before the game yesterday as a mark of respect. There was two minutes of silence prior to kick-off and a video of the former owner was shown inside the stadium.
Afterwards the entire club and the owner’s son thanked all sections of the stadium as the fans wearing special shirts and holding up scarves clapped along. Only a Grinch wouldn’t have been moved by the events.
The match was a rather drab 0-0, but on this day the result was of no consequence. It was all about a community and a club that were united as one.