Farmer Bunnies head coach Sikong Darong
sent the fanbase into a tizzy out of nowhere, as he announced his impending retirement via prepared statement. While he hadn't been seen much outside of matchday for some months, the announcement still came as a complete shock to the club hierarchy, apparently other than a few discreet close friends and higher-ups.
The statement thanked all involved with the Bunnies, and revealed that the 47 year-old had been afflicted with serious - and well-hidden - health issues for a time. Thankfully, nothing on the level of cancer, but nonetheless severe enough that his doctors had recommended a very long layoff from high-level coaching, and the accompanying stress.
This sadly means that Sikong - who has just completed his twelfth season at the helm - will not fulfil his wishes of either bringing the Buns to the S-League, or achieving a major national trophy with them. However, there is no doubting his legacy in other respects, with his success in raising local talents to the national side quite unmatched, even by Grilled Birds standards.
"I'm not exaggerating when I say that most of us wouldn't be what we are today, without Darong." veteran captain Tham Leng Teck
declared. "He forged this team - and the defensive line in particular - in his own image."
There may however be some changes afoot, with it being no secret that understudy Dalibor Kostadinović
has long been groomed to take over the mantle. It is far more unclear as to whether he will maintain Sikong's tactics, having gained a reputation for being a ready experimentalist with the reserve and youth sides. No clarification is expected to be forthcoming for now, with Dalibor reportedly bent on keeping a respectful silence until the handover is made official.
Sikong aside, a number of Buns players are also on their way out, with Cheah Chang Ming
, Milán Bolgár
and Ermis Ftenopoulos
all not having had their contracts renewed. Other than that, Sarkis Krikoryan
and Llamil Vener
are supposedly also considering a move, with playing opportunities unlikely to present themselves given the Bunnies' recent buys.