South African footballer Richard Henyekane died in a car accident, leaving family, friends and fans in shock and mourning. His legacy will not be forgotten. The former Bafana Bafana player is remembered as a talented and well-respected man and footballer. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about Richard Henyekane.
Sources: Sport24.co.za, TheGuardian.com, Edition.CNN.com, Remembered.co.za, CityPress.co.za, WikiWand.com, PressReader.com
Growing up in the Galeshewe Township in Kimberley in the Northern Cape province, Henyekane spent his youth career playing for the Basotho Tigers. He earned the nickname, the “Kimberley Express,” after his hometown, early on in his football career for his impressive speed and sharp shooting.
After joining Premier United-Hellenic in 2004, he made his first appearance in a match against Jomo Cosmos on Feb. 8, 2004. Henyekane played as a striker or attacking right wing position, and quickly became known for his scoring prowess on the field.
While playing for the amateur side in the Premier League, Henyekane received the Lesley Manyathela Award, given to the top goal scorer of the season. Henyekane had netted 19 goals in the 2008-2009 season, earning him international attention and the opportunity to move up to the professional side. The award is named after Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana striker Manyathela, who also died in a car accident in 2003 in Limpopo.
Members of Henyekane’s community remember him as a humble man who was well respected among neighbors and friends. Daddy Matlhko, a man who knew Henyekane since he was a young boy, said, “Richard was a humble, humble person. He never let fame and whatever go to his head and I’m saying he could associate with anyone. He was that kind of person, very respectful towards elders, and towards the younger as well.”
Throughout his career, Henyekane played for several different teams in the South African Premier League. At the time of his death, he was on loan to the Free State Stars from the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club. He previously played for the Lamontville Golden Arrows and Hellenic FC, based in Cape Town, where he spent the bulk of his career with 119 appearances.
While playing with the Sundowns, Henyekane played a large role in his team’s 24-0 victory over the Powerlines in 2012. The match marked a remarkable record in the Nedbank Cup, and Henyekane contributed five of the goals himself.
Henyekane made nine appearances for South Africa’s national football team, Bafana Bafana, from 2009 to 2013. Though he was first called up for international duty in 2009, he was left out of the national squad for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, and didn’t have his first international debut until August 12, 2009, in a 3-1 loss against Serbia.
Some friends and teammates described Henyekane as a “party animal” and “boozer of note” who couldn’t handle his alcohol. Friends remembered Henyekane as one who would never turn down an invitation to a party, and said he was often influenced by people giving bad advice. Many suspect that Henyekane was driving under the influence when his car collided with an oncoming truck, leading to his fatal accident.
Manquoba Mngqithi, Henyekane’s former coach with the Golden Arrows said Henyekane admitted to a drinking problem while with the team – though he maintained that the drinking did not affect his performance on the pitch. Mngqithi said he was sad about Henyekane’s death, and blamed the problematic drinking culture in South Africa. “The problem is the culture of drinking in black communities has changed. It is no longer about drinking anymore, but we calculate the number of bottles you’ve drunk.”
Before the tragic accident that would claim his life, Henyekane was with friends and several other teammates from the Free State Stars at a party in Bethlehem. Earlier that day, however, the team’s coach, Kinnah Phiri, had told his players there was “nothing to celebrate,” following the team’s -zero loss to Amazulu.
In December 2014, Henyekane’s brother, Joseph, also a footballer, died unexpectedly in his home in Kimberley, South Africa. The cause of death remains unknown according to reports. Joseph was 30 at the time of his death, and the Henyekane family is devastated at the loss of both of their sons, so close together.
Following his death, Henyekane’s younger sister, Keaobaka, 14, recited an emotional poem entitled “For My Brothers” in tribute to both Richard and Joseph that moved mourners to tears.