Throwback Thursday: 'I played for Pirates for free'


In this week's Throwback Thursday an Orlando Pirates legend details how at one stage he continued playing for the club without being paid a salary.

Oupa '21 Jump Street' Mabuza joined Orlando Pirates in 1991 from Soshanguve amateur club Mandel Kings.

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"If I remember very well I was earning around R500 or R600," Mabuza tells

"You know there's one thing about us at Pirates that time, we were playing for pride. So what I was earning was not a lot of money. It was smaller than what I earned in my second job. But we had that thing that we want to play for that badge because there were times we played without getting paid at Pirates.

"Before Irvine Khoza returned to Pirates in 1992, we played for nothing sometimes. We played for months without getting paid our salaries but you couldn't notice that from watching us play.

"We never went on strike saying we are not getting our salaries. It was the era of the late bra Sixty Mali, Sikhumbuzo...So it was tough before bra Irvine made his return."

During the National Soccer League (NSL) era it was normal for a professional footballer to have second jobs as clubs paid peanuts in those days.

"While I was still active I was also working at the South African Breweries (SAB), the one near Mamelodi, remember I'm from Mamelodi. I worked there for about eleven years.

"I was a dispatcher at the warehouse. Our job was to load trucks using forklifts and operating computers and so on. We knew football is a short career so we had to have something on the side.

As I'm speaking to you now I'm wearing overalls here in Bronkhorspruit. I got here in 2004. But I grew up in Mamelodi."

These days the former full-back works in construction, building homes.

"At the moment I'm busy with construction. I build houses. This has been my passion for a long time.

"While playing for Pirates, I was already in construction. The construction business is owned by me, my son and my wife.

It's called S.P.M.O.E.M.Construction (Steven Phuthi Mabuza Oupa Elphas Mabuza), we build houses for people. Yes, you can say it's a good job, it's not that bad."

Having retired at the young age of 28, Pirates is the only professional team Mabuza played for in his whole life.

"I retired at Pirates. Remember we were involved in an accident returning from a match in Krugersdorp, travelling with Ted Dumitru.

"Remember that year I think it was in 1996, I wanted to leave Pirates because of some issues that happened in 1995 when we won the Star.

"I stayed at home for a while training on my own, but I ended up going back there after they refused to give me my clearance. Bondarenko (Viktor) was in charge now.

"I think I played one game against Free State Stars at FNB Stadium, then Bondarenko said I needed match practice. On the weekend there was a reserve team game in Krugersdorp.

"Ted Dumitru was in charge of the reserve team. On our way back, Boom! Accident. It was the end of my career."

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