On Tuesday morning, the 7th of April 2015, South Africa woke up to the news that another one of their football stars had lost their life.
This time, in a tragic car accident, while on his way from QwaQwa to Bethlehem, 31-year-old Free State Stars striker Richard Henyekane passed away.
The Kimberley native was born on 28 September 1983 and came from the Galeshewe township, leading to Henyekane being affectionately called the “Kimberley Express”.
While he has been known to play upfront, he was also strong playing as an attacking midfielder. Henyekane made his debut for Premier United-Hellenic against Jomo Cosmos on 8 February 2004. He joined Golden Arrows in the 2004/05 season, with his first goal coming in Arrows 1-1 draw against Manning Rangers on 19 January 2005.
While with Golden Arrows, the striker had the best season of his career, when he scored three hat-tricks with 19 goals in the league during the 2008/9 season and another hat-trick in the Telkom Knock-out. He ended that season with 23 goals to his name and earned the Absa Premiership Top Goalscorer award. In 2009, he was also part of the MTN 8 winning team.
During this time, Henyekane was called into the Bafana Bafana squad, but was shockingly left out of Joel Santana’s squad for the Fifa Confederations Cup in 2009. He made his international debut in Bafana’s 3-1 loss against Serbia aged 26 in 2009. He had made nine official appearances for the national team.
Henyekane moved on a free transfer from Golden Arrows to Chloorkop-based club, Mamelodi Sundowns on a three-year contract in 2010. He was one of the scorers in the record breaking Sundowns team that hammered Powerlines FC 24-0 in the Nedbank Cup in March 2012. Henyekane scored five of those goals.
He joined Free State Stars on loan from Sundowns in the January Transfer Window of 2014, with the move made permanent in July 2014. During this time, he made 18 league appearances and scored seven goals in the process. Not only was he a determined player, but also took his role as a senior player seriously.
Henyekane was more than happy to mentor teammate and fellow forward Moeketsi Sekola, who soon became a Bafana international himself. In November 2014, he told his club’s website: “I am a senior player and he is still a young boy. We are learning from each other. The age is not such a big deal, sometimes we have to learn from each other.”
Henyekane had made 17 appearances in the South African top flight this season, and he was one of an elite list of active players that had scored 50 goals in the PSL. His last match was as a substitute apperance against AmaZulu at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on the 4th of April 2015, and his last goal came in Stars 1-1 draw with Orlando Pirates at Charles Mopeli stadium on 6 May 2014.
Henyekane had lost his brother Joseph, also a footballer, in December 2014 aged 30. He had played for Arrows, as well as Mpumalanga Black Aces and Bidvest Wits.
Goal sends our condolences to the Henyekane family, friends and SA football on this sad loss.