Happy Jele cherishes his 200th Bucs game
Orlando Pirates captain Happy Jele is on his 200th Absa Premiership game. Jele speaks to Tiyani wa ka Mabasa about his journey with the Buccaneers from 2006 and his comeback after a career-threating knee injury against Bidvest Wits in 2011
Congratulations on your milestone. It must be a big deal for you just as it was when you joined Pirates from amateur side Walter Stars from Middelburg?
Yeah, I remember it well and coming from Mpumalanga to go play for Orlando Pirates was a big thing for me. So my debut was very nice against Maritzburg United [on September 20 2006] though we lost 1-0 [at Chatsworth Stadium]. I was about 19 years old at the time.
Of those who started for Pirates with you, it's only Paulus Masehe of Free State Stars who's also still playing in the PSL, while the likes of Lucky Lekgwathi, Lucas Thwala and Benedict Vilakazi are not.
What did you learn from those guys?
I learnt a lot from them and they kept pushing me to work harder. They taught me to be disciplined and to be dedicated. My purpose was to learn from them.
You could have actually passed 200 sometime back had it not been for that terrible injury?
Eish, that moment was hard for me when I got injured, and I must thank the Mighty God for giving me another chance to play again. I'm grateful for that and after that, I wanted to do more because Orlando Pirates did a lot of things for me. I had a lot of support from the club, my family, friends and manager. I saw that there were a lot of people that care about me. It made me stronger and motivated me to come back.
Your first coach at Pirates was Micho Sredojevic, in his first stint. Has he changed?
He was a good coach and he is still a good coach. I learnt a lot from him, Rulani [Mokwena] and Benson [Mhlongo]. Football changes every day and you have to learn every day. We have a good technical team overall.
What has been your best moment at Pirates?
It's a lot, obviously. Being a part of the club, participating in major CAF tournaments was a dream for me and winning a double treble with the team.
Do you believe you can win the league?
It's not the end and you can't predict the future. We are taking one game as it comes, that's all I can say.
How long do you see yourself playing?
I don't know. I will see with my legs, but I love this game and I'm passionate about it.
Is it disappointing that you only have three Bafana Bafana caps?
All I can say is that it's very good to play for your country and you need to push harder to get there.
Your message to aspiring footballers?
You must have passion for the game, be disciplined and dedicated; have a good attitude and don't be around people who can get you into situations where you end up using things like drugs. Get away from negative people and be positive about what you want to do. It's about perseverance and your time will come. You never know who's watching.