Thank You Happy

When Happy Jele signed for Orlando Pirates from amateur club Walter Stars sixteen years ago, few could have predicted the impact he would go on to make over the course of his time at the Club.

Now he departs as a legend in his own right and Club Captain, having been an integral member of the side which went on to lift 2 league, 2 Nedbank Cup, 1 Telkom Knockout and 3 MTN8 Cup titles. Including 1 CAF Champions League, and 2 CAF Confederations Cup silver medals.

The football climate in the 21st century has made true club legends a rare commodity, but Orlando Pirates Captain Happy Jele is one of the few to have bucked the trend in recent years. 

Less and less frequently do we see players at an elite level perform at the highest level for over a decade.

Jele has cemented his legendary status in the same way as the likes of Paolo Maldini (AC Milan), Steven Gerard (Liverpool), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Francesco Totti (AC Roma), Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) and Matthew Le Tissier (Southampton). Players who have played 15+ years in the topflight.

Magents as he was affectionately known, made his debut as a teenager in Pirates’ first league match of the 2006/07 season on September 20, 2006, against Maritzburg United.

Little did he or anybody at the time, would have expected the wide-eyed 19-year-old to go on to reach such heights, where today he sits on top of the pile as the player with the most appearances for the Mighty Buccaneers in the PSL era having surpassed a long-standing record previously held by William Okpara (375) last season.

Jele today is the man to beat with over 400 matches under his belt – a record that is set to stay for many years to come. 

Highs and Lows

16 years is a long time in every respect but in football terms, 16 years is a lifetime. Very few players have been fortunate to have careers spanning over a period of a decade let alone 16 that Happy has been able to achieve.

As expected, during this time there will be many ups and many lows but for Happy it was a career filled with a lot more highs than lows.  

Highs

2009 – Bon Voyage: In 2009 the club arranged for Happy Jele to spend a month at RS Lens in France. The experience would prove to be extremely invaluable for the 22-year-old as this trip opened his eyes to what professionalism and discipline meant. Values that he would uphold for the rest of his career at the Club.

2011 – Debut Goal: With the match deep into the referees’ optional time and Pirates losing 1-0 against AmaZulu, Jele netted the equaliser at the death. The goal would be Happy’s first in his professional career and it would see Bucs stretch its unbeaten run to 13 games.

2011 – Rocket in Rustenburg: arguably his best goal in the colours of Orlando Pirates. The marauding right back advanced deep from his own half and with no Platinum Stars player nearby, Jele unleashed a rocket from outside the box to net the winner and ensure Bucs stay in first place on the log table. The Club would go on to win the league title.

2012 – Double Treble Champ: A treble is a tough feat to achieve in football. A back-to-back treble even more so. The class of 2011 and 2012, that Happy belongs too, can hold its head up high as a Double Treble Champion having won six trophies in two seasons. 

2017 – Cometh the Hour Cometh the Man: Jele scores in a match against Bidvest Wits and then later in the match he goes on to be a goalkeeper after a Jackson Mabokgwane red card. He pulls off a super save to deny Gabadinho Mhango

Lows 

2011 – Career threatening injury: Jele tears anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his knee in November 2011 and spent over a year in the infirmary after undergoing surgery.

2015 – Agonisingly close: Pirates come close to lifting the CAF Confederation Cup only to lose by a solitary goal away to Tunisian outfit Etoile Du Sahel. The goal coming as a result of a deflection off Happy’s outstretched leg.
 
2021 – Penalty heartbreak: Once again Pirates would find itself in the final of the CAF Confederation Cup and once again the Buccaneers would fall short at the final hurdle but this time via the dreaded penalty shootout.

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