Football can be a cold and brutal sport made worse in England by an often cutting sense of cynicism.
Like the weather and a gap in the clouds, you can’t always tell if you’re loved, but when you are it’s as glorious as it is fleeting.
Terraces haven’t always been welcoming, not least to foreign owners unaccustomed to the culture, and not that long ago multi-cultural Leicester wasn’t reflected as such in its spectatorship.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha changed all that.
Like the surname bestowed upon him by the King of Thailand, which means ‘glowing light of prosperity’, the Leicester City owner became the unlikeliest of candidates to bring light, warmth and smiles to the unlikeliest of places.
Taking the Foxes from the second tier when he took over in 2010 to a fairy-tale 5000-1 Premier League title in 2015/16, his input brought a city together not just through the investment of his money, but also in his time and generosity — gifting each fan with free hops and pies on his birthday.
The rich are often viewed with suspicion among football’s largely working class fanbase, and you won’t have to follow football for long to realise that owners of clubs are not always the most popular of people among its supporters.
However, Vichai was different, and he won the respect of the community because he genuinely seemed to care about the club and its people, delivering the good times but also riding out the bad with aplomb, particularly after harshly sacking Claudio Ranieri just months after the Italian won them the title. The fact that most of the title-winning squad stayed with them after this triumph and even after Ranieri’s departure, perhaps spoke volumes of Vichai’s magnetism.
Things can change in a moment, and Leicester fans of all people — having seen their club finish 14th and 12th either side of their freak and historic first Premier League win — will know that nothing lasts forever.
They never expected that fact to be made apparent off the field as well though in quite such horrific circumstances, when after Leicester’s home game against West Ham on Saturday, Vichai’s helicopter crashed after take-off from the stadium, killing him and four others onboard.
The outpouring of grief that has followed makes it apparent just how much the owner meant to the club, and in times like this you see the real face of football, a much softer and accepting side, where results and tribalism take a backseat.
Like that parting in the clouds that brought the city so much joy in 2015/16, Leicester must now hope that his death doesn’t signal a return back to murky obscurity. Whether that means by carrying on under the ownership of Vichai’s family members, or someone else, they must bottle the spirit he brought and continue.
Football as a whole from either side of the boardroom door can learn so much from his having been there, both in how to accept and just be a little bit kinder and understanding, and it’s that light and belief that must keep shining.