Cape Town - A major pioneer as chairperson in the rise of Highlands Park during the club's halcyon years in the 1960s and 1970s, Rex Evans died at the age of 89 on Friday, only days after learning he was suffering from leukaemia.
Known as "The Lions of the North", Highlands were a dominant force in South African soccer until the loss of their Balfour Park Stadium resulted in the club selling its NPSL franchise to Jomo Sono's Jomo Cosmos in 1982.
During the mid-1960s, Highlands assembled a glittering line-up of local and overseas players that to this day ranks among a handful of the very best teams produced in the country.
And after Highlands operated mainly as a junior and amateur club since, gaining promotion to the PSL's Premier League for the current season was described by the club's former chairperson as "a long-time dream come true."
"I only met Rex this year," said current chairperson Brad Kaftel, who has been instrumental in engineering Highlands' revival, "and he was bubbling with enthusiasm over what we had achieved.
"His sudden passing is therefore a great shock," added Kaftel, "but I'm sure he enjoyed great satisfaction over seeing Highlands back on the soccer map again."
The former Highlands chairperson was among the group of NFL officials who negotiated the introduction of non-racial professional soccer in South Africa in 1978 as a result of a merger with the NPSL in spite of the racial-dividing apartheid ideology still flourishing in the country.
It was soon afterwards that Highlands signed the mercurial Jerry Sadike from Orlando Pirates - one of the first across-the-race-barrier transfers in South African soccer.
“Rex was the boss during my playing days with Highlands in the 1970s," said recently-appointed Highlands and former Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund, "and he set the tone of respectability the club has always enjoyed."
And Igesund's sentiment was echoed by Martin Cohen and Hennie Joubert, two players in the long line of exceptional footballers who made their mark in Highlands' ranks.