Eagles chasing Sikhakhane's dream
Posted: 8 November 2018 Time: 14:00
Royal Eagles deputy chairperson Shawn Mpisane fought back the tears in paying tribute to her fallen coach Roger Sikhakhane at a memorial service at Coastland Hotel in Umhlanga, Durban.
Mboneni Richman Sikhakhane passed away last Saturday after a long illness and will be laid to rest this Saturday in Wasbank in KwaZulu-Natal.
The club's match against Mbombela United at KaNyamazane Stadium in Mpumalanga has consequently been postponed by the PSL.
'Mshefi', who went on sick leave four games into the season, was appointed by Eagles in February when results were not going their club's way. His task was to save the club from relegation which is what he did, just like he did with Thanda Royal Zulu when he took control of them in 2016 before promoting them to the PSL. Eagles had the hope that he'll repeat the feat at the club.
"Roger was sick. I would sit there with pain and say this is not right," Mpisane said in paying her respects to Sikhakhane on Wednesday.
"He was sick and I had to take a tough decision. I had to call him in and said, 'Coach, you are not well' and he used to say, 'I'll be fine. I wanted to come to Royal Eagles for a long period of time and now I have this opportunity and Royal Eagles doesn't deserve to be where it is. Eagles has to be in the promised land, and I want to give the club that'.
"We believed in him and we had this thought that he was going to take us up. I tried, we tried, we supported him, but God has spoken. God had his plan. What I can share about Roger Sikhakhane, first of all I don't know football, but I have been learning football.
"When it was match days, we used to talk about who is going to play. Let us discuss it, let us agree so that when we win, we win together. When we lose, we lose together. As long as we talked about it, whether we agree or disagree, because sometimes I'm passionate about these boys.
"You see me travelling with the boys all the time; I love all of you. I've got so much of a soft spot for all of you. What I love about him, coaches are arrogant. Coaches, when they come to the club, they take the club, they forget about us as chairmen.
"But as much as I didn't know anything about soccer, he gave me an ear, he was listening to me. I wanted the Premier's Cup (pre-season tournament in KZN) so badly and we lost it. He said to me, 'I don't want the Premier's Cup, that's not me. I promise you, for us it is to go to the PSL'.
"I ask the Royal Eagles, to the Sikhakhane family, to everyone that has supported us here today, we would like to do something to Sikhakhane because he dedicated his life. When his health was not good, he stuck with us. He wanted to make sure that we go to the PSL, it was his dream. When days were going, times were going, he was there, he was worried about the club."
Eagles midfielder Mphakamiseni Nene, who impressed at Thanda under Sikhakhane along with the likes of Mhlengi Cele, Jabulani Ncobeni and Khotso Malope, says as players they hope to make Sikhakhane's dream a reality by gaining promotion to the PSL.
"I'm hurt when I heard that he has passed away because I used to phone him when he was sick and he told me he was getting better," Nene tells KickOff.com.
"But I was very hurt that he passed away and the game we played (a defeat to Maccabi), I played feeling hurt after hearing the news. Roger gave the chance and I worked well with him at Thanda. He used to say to us as players we must play with freedom.
"Now as players, we've got the task to make the dream of Roger come true because Roger's wish was to see the club promoted. I even remember when he came to the club I said to him, 'Coach, make some plans like you used to do so that the club can be promoted'.
"He said back to me,'Don't worry my boy, we are going to promote the club this season'. He came at the very same time at Thanda with just a few games left. I think it was 11 games at Thanda and he did that here last season to save the club. His wish was to take the club to the PSL.
"For us as players, we have to make his dream come alive by taking the club to the PSL."
Meanwhile, Max Mqadi, the owner of Max's Lifestyle at Umlazi's V section and a close friend of Sikhakhane, questioned some of the players' efforts after five years of the club campaigning in the NFD.
"Some of you guys are not doing justice to the club and the owners," Mqadi said.
"I'm a businessman, this is business. When the owner of this team trusted you as a coach, with their money, with their millions, it's a big thing. The problem of the coaches they want to be in charge, make it look like it's their money, it is not.
"You must work in order to make sure everything is right for the football, not for you. Soccer is not about you. Soccer is about the team, a team that includes a technical team, players, even the person that sweeps the floor, even someone who is in charge of everything. There has to be one spirit.
"So, from today, I'm a businessman. I played with Clinton Larsen on trials at Manning Rangers. I think I'm the same age as him, but I became a businessman because I didn't want to be shouted at by someone.
"So I want us to celebrate Roger's legacy that he left behind and carry on where he left it off."
Sikhakhane, who was due to turn 43 on November 30, is survived by six children.