Happy Jele celebrating 10th anniversary with Orlando Pirates
Posted: 20 September 2016 Time: 13:26
Orlando Pirates defender Happy Jele says he is buoyed by the fact that he is the only active footballer to have spent 10 straight years at the same PSL club.
When Pirates host Cape Town City tonight at Orlando Stadium, Jele will have clocked exactly a decade since the day that he played in his first official match with The Buccaneers on 20 September 2006, against Maritzburg United.
Back then, Jele was a skinny 19-year-old who had arrived from the township of Mhluzi in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, with a dream of one day playing for one of the most respected club in South Africa, if not Africa.
“It is really inspiring to know that this is the kind of achievement that I have managed in my career because, like you are saying, it is not often that this happens,” Jele tells KickOff.com.
That decade-long journey in the colours of The Bucs has seen Jele start 240 games, winning the league title twice, MTN8 twice, Nedbank Cup twice and the Telkom Knockout, while also being capped twice at Bafana Bafana level.
“For me it means a lot that I am now here, with this having been a great journey. Pirates have taken care of me and I would like thank God for giving me the talent and then guiding me to play for one team for so long.
"The chairman [Dr Irvin Khoza] has been there all the time, along with the rest of the Pirates family. The hard work and the kind of people that I associate with are part of the reason why I have gotten here.
"In 2011 I had a bad injury which led to a very difficult period in my career but my friends and family kept me positive,” he adds.
Jele also reveals that he has never even had thoughts of leaving the club throughout his rollercoaster journey, and wants to continue for as long as possible in the famous black and white colours.
“I have never had that kind of mind-set of wanting to leave the club, because so far so good for me here at Pirates. Only God knows what will happen with my career goung forward, but I hope to stay here for as long as possible.
"I want to inspire others through my time in football, in the same way that I was also guided when I arrived.
"I remember when I played my first game I had Edward Malinga calming my nerves, with all my teammates also making me feel important in the team. Now I am here thanks to them,” he concludes.
In a country that rarely finds reason to celebrate such achievements, Jele is now on the path to achieving legendary status in the same way that Paolo Maldini did at AC Milan, Francesco Totti at AS Roma, Ryan Giggs at Manchester United and Matthew Le Tissier at Southampton – who all spent their entire professional careers with only one club.
Jele is also the only player still at Pirates from the squad in his debut season (2006-07), with Paulus Masehe the only other player still attached to a PSL club at the moment.
Most, including the likes of Tonic Chabalala, Papi Khomane, Steve Lekoelea, Blaise-Lelo Mbele, have disappeared from the face of top flight football, while Siyabonga Nomvethe is currently plying his trade in the First Division with AmaZulu.