Caf Confederation Cup: Orlando Pirates skipper Jele deserves to make more history

Happy Jele & Thabang Monare, Orlando Pirates, October 2021Backpagepix

Orlando Pirates skipper Happy Jele has the chance to fix his continental heartbreak when the Sea Robbers meet RS Berkane in the 2022 Caf Confederation Cup in Uyo, Nigeria on Friday night.

Now in his 16th season with the Buccaneers, the 35-year-old has been a loyal club servant who has enjoyed an incredible, and well-decorated career.

When he made his debut for Amabhakabhaka back in the 2006/2007 season, the league wasn’t even known as the Absa Premiership nor the DStv Premiership, but rather the Castle Premiership.

Since then he’s gone on to total 383 appearances for the Buccaneers, scoring 18 goals and creating seven assists. He’s been yellow-carded 72 times and red-carded just once, a testament to the timing of his tackles and the complete focus he possesses on the field.

Happy Jele, Orlando Pirates

A consummate professional, fearless defender and committed leader, Jele is the kind of player every club and every coach wants.

Originally signed from Walter Stars, Jele has won seven major trophies in his time at Pirates – two league titles, two MTN8 titles, two Nedbank Cups and the Telkom Knockout. A major African title would sit nicely with that collection.

Next generation

Olisa Ndah has undoubtedly benefited from playing alongside Jele this season as the young Nigerian centre-back has flourished.

Now the two of them could be key to Bucs' hope of winning on Friday. Because with Pirates not especially clinical up front this season, a clean sheet could be crucial to their cause.

Jele will lead by example and through cajoling and encouraging his troops and it would be wonderful if, in the latter stages of his career, he can be rewarded for his service to Bucs by helping them lift the trophy on Friday.

And it would not be surprising if he got on the score-sheet himself in the opposition box, having already netted three times in the Confederation Cup.

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While retirement does not seem on the cards any time soon for Jele, the Middleburg, Mpumalanga-born defender may possibly not get another chance like this to crown his career by skippering the Buccaneers to what would be one of their finest honours.

In doing so, he would become only the second captain to lead Pirates to continental glory, after Edward Motale in the 1995 Champions League final.