As’phele­langa Go well, coach Sikhakhane

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTHOWAGAE daniel.mothowagae@city­press.co.za

Theirs was an on-again, off-again re­la­tion­ship, but late coach Mbo­neni Roger Sikhakhane will be best re­mem­bered for his many spells at Chippa United, the club he guided to their first pro­mo­tion to the elite league six years ago.

Yes­ter­day, the lo­cal foot­ball fra­ter­nity woke up to the news that the young men­tor had died just a month be­fore his 43rd birth­day.

At the time of his death, Sikhakhane was in charge of Na­tional First Divi­sion (NFD) side Royal Ea­gles, but the club had given him some time off due to ill­ness.

Tributes started pour­ing in, with the Pre­mier Soc­cer League declar­ing a mo­ment of si­lence at this week­end’s Telkom Knock­out quar­ter­fi­nals and at NFD matches.

Sikhakhane, who was orig­i­nally from KwaZu­luNatal, spent the bet­ter part of his coach­ing ca­reer at the Chilli Boys, start­ing out as as­sis­tant coach in 2011.

He en­deared him­self to the Chippa United fans so much that they added his name to the club’s an­them As’phele­langa, a song that cel­e­brated the team’s pro­mo­tion back into the Absa Premier­ship in 2014.

“Roger was the pi­o­neer of the Chippa way of play­ing that we see to­day,” said Chippa United for­mer me­dia of­fi­cer Luthando “Tromp­ies” Zibeko, who spent a long time with Sikhakhane at the club.

“It was his love for the club that kept bring­ing him back to Chippa. He al­ways re­minded us that he was a huge part of the club’s his­tory.

“He hung out with his play­ers, mak­ing him a unique play­ers’ coach. He is the one who rec­om­mended me back at the club last sea­son. Foot­ball has lost big time.”

Sikhakhane’s many stints at Chippa started when, as the club’s fifth coach dur­ing the 2011/12 NFD sea­son, he took over with 11 matches re­main­ing.

He guided Chippa to a sec­ond-place fin­ish, which gave them a spot in the much sought-af­ter pro­mo­tional play-offs.

The club failed to hold on to their premier­ship sta­tus and, on their re­turn in the 2012/13 cam­paign, Sikhakhane was back at the helm, but lasted for only five matches in charge.

Af­ter a sea­son away, he made an­other re­turn to the Chippa hot seat six matches into the 2014/15 sea­son, but he was fired af­ter 12 games.

The 2015/16 sea­son was no dif­fer­ent as he was sacked again af­ter 11 matches into the cam­paign.

Sikhakhane, who looked up to lo­cal coaches such as Pitso Mosi­mane and Steve Kom­phela, proved his worth when he pro­moted Thanda Royal Zulu to the premier­ship two sea­sons ago.

Ea­gles, who were placed ninth on the NFD log prior to this week­end’s matches, were hop­ing Sikhakhane would also guide them to the Promised Land.

Rest in peace, coach.

PHOTO: SA­MUEL SHIVAMBU / BACKPAGEPIX

STYLING Mbo­neni Sikhakhane al­ways looked sleek on the touch­line

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