Sifiso Biyela and Clinton Larsen pay tribute to Roger Sikhakhane
Posted: 5 November 2018 Time: 16:00
Richards Bay FC chairman Sifiso Biyela says his late friend Roger Sikhakhane was a hard worker who advised him to get his own club.
Sikhakhane died at the age of 42 on Saturday following a long illness, having been placed on sick leave by Royal Eagles four games into the National First Division season.
Biyela was working for the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation in Umhlathuze, KwaZulu-Natal when he started a programme to upskill coaches, which first brought him into contact with Sikhakhane.
Sikhakhane went on to coach KwaNongoma-based Island FC, taking the amateur club to the Nedbank Cup Last 32 where they lost to Mamelodi Sundowns.
He then became an assistant coach at Chippa United, helping the club in their promotion to the PSL in 2013/14 as the second in command under Serbian tactician Vladislav Heric.
Sikhakhane had a tumultous relationship with Chippa, and was later appointed as the coach of Thanda Royal Zulu in 2016 by Biyela. He took over the reins from David Bright with 11 games to go in the season and managed to steer the club to safety.
In his first full season with Thanda, Sikhakhane guided the club to NFD honours with a then-record points haul, which was eclipsed by Highlands Park last term.
AmaZulu then bought Thanda's topflight status, which spawned the birth of Richards Bay FC.
Biyela wanted Sikhakhane to serve as the head coach but he asked to be let go of his contract due to his health issues.
"When I was working for the Department of Sport and Recreation I came with a programme of training coaches so that the coaches in my district can get certificates. Coaches like Roger were coaching but they were not trained by SAFA," Biyela tells KickOff.com.
"So I came with that programme and it unearthed many coaches. It is where we started to know each other. Roger coached the local squad in the district before he became the coach that many people now know.
"So we were friends. I remember the chairman of the club [Pierre Delvaux] didn't want him at Thanda. I stood my ground and I said, 'If it's not Roger, then it means I'll have to move on from the club because I feel he's the only one who can take the club to where it should be'. And he did that.
"Together, working hand in hand, we took the club to promotion. So it hurt him most when the club was sold because we had our plans. We had signed players and we had a plan in place but it didn't happen.
"It hurt him most that it didn't happen. The club was sold and he became unwell. When I started Richards Bay he wasn't well for far too long and he tried because he's someone who loves football and to coach.
"It got to the point where he asked me and said, 'My chairman, right now, I'm not in a good position to lead and I ask you to let me go so that I can look after my health'.
"We didn't think his life was in danger. We thought it was just about his health to be at home for a few months to look after himself. I think he did that and went back to Chippa United as part of the team and then at Royal Eagles.
"But this will remain his home because Roger was one of many who encouraged me to have my own club instead of relying on other people."
Golden Arrows coach Clinton Larsen has described Sikhakhane's death as a "big loss" to the country's football fraternity.
"It's a big loss. We know he has been ill for a long time now, but his love for the game never kept him away from the game," Larsen says.
"Even when he was ill, you know we played Royal Eagles in lots of friendly matches, Roger was always present. He tried to fight for as long as he could and it's a big loss.
"He may not have been in the PSL for a long time as a coach but in the NFD he showed his qualities as a young coach with lots of potential.
"I think it's got to be a big loss for South African football."