Happy Jele: Royal AM transfer target was smart to reject Orlando Pirates

Happy Jele, Orlando Pirates, September 2021Backpagepix

The January transfer window may have closed on Tuesday, but PSL teams can still sign free agents as they look to bolster their ranks ahead of the final months of the campaign.

One player still on the lookout for new employers is Orlando Pirates legend Happy Jele, who was overlooked by suitors during the first half of the season, but could still have something to offer PSL sides.

The 36-year-old was released by the Buccaneers at the start of the season, having served them—man and boy—for 16 years.

Jele first featured for Pirates in 2006, and would go on to make over 400 appearances for the PSL giants before departing last year.

He was a key figure in the outstanding back-to-back PSL winning side of 2011 and 2012, and was also involved as they reached the Caf Champions League final in 2013, captaining the side in the first leg 1-1 draw with Al-Ahly in Johannesburg.

Happy Jele, Orlando Pirates, September 2021Backpagepix

Despite his achievements, Jele and Pirates had a parting of the ways in 2022, with the veteran keen to extend his playing career, while Bucs only saw value of him as part of their backroom staff.

He ultimately rejected Pirates’ offer of a non-playing role, essentially breaking up with his beloved Pirates, who have been his home since he took his maiden steps in the game.

Over the last few months, Jele might have regretted this decision, with no PSL offers forthcoming, and the experienced campaigner kicking his heels on the touchline, awaiting his next paycheck.

Now, however, his patience appears primed to pay off, with Royal AM—tipped to be interested in his services before the campaign—now understood to be lining up a contract.

The experienced defender has been training with the club, and would surely have a lot to offer Thwihli Thwahla both on and off the pitch.

Having begun to take his coaching badges, it’s clear that Jele has his eyes on a career beyond the pitch, and Royal AM could be an ideal environment for the 36-year-old to wind down as an active competitor while also taking a more involved role behind the scenes.

It must have been a difficult move for Jele, back in 2022, to have turned down the prospect of an extended stay with Pirates—even if he meant hanging up his boots.

Now, however, his bold decision may yet pay off, and who knows, perhaps in the years to come, he can still prove to be an asset—and a future head coach perhaps—for Bucs.

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