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‘It would be an honour to captain Orlando Pirates,’ says Innocent Maela

Orlando Pirates’ Innocent Maela in action during a DStv Premiership game against Maritzburg United

FILE - Orlando Pirates’ Innocent Maela in action during a DStv Premiership game against Maritzburg United. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Jul 22, 2022

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Johannesburg — With the winds of change having blown through at Orlando Pirates, with two captains recently leaving, Innocent Maela says it would be an honour to lead the club.

After spending 16 years as a Buccaneer, following his promotion at 19 years of age, Happy Jele’s playing career at the club came to an end this month.

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The 35-year-old refused to take the club’s non-playing offer ahead of the new season, choosing to look elsewhere for playing options before hanging up his boots.

Jele left Pirates as a legend, given the fact that he played over 400 matches and won multiple trophies, including two league titles.

He wasn’t the only captain to leave the Sea Robbers’ ship this winter, with his deputy Ntsikelelo Nyauza forming part of the list of players whose contracts were not renewed.

However, eyes have since been fixed on the club’s head honchos to announce Maela as the new club captain, given the fact that he’s one of the few senior players in the team.

Maela has been at Pirates for five seasons. He won the MTN8 two seasons ago before playing in the CAF confederation Cup final last season where they lost to RS Berkane.

“I don’t think it’s pressure, but responsibility, yes. I’ve been saying that everyone should be responsible,” said Maela during Pirates new kit launch this week.

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“I would be an honour (to captain the team). But there wouldn’t be any pressure because we are a team. My teammates would be there to support me.

“But if they (the management and coaches) gave the armband to someone else, I know that I’d be there to support that person.

“It doesn’t matter who wears the armband as long as everyone is accountable, responsible and knows that they need to deliver on the pitch, then we’ll be sorted.”

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Maela will not have to look far for motivation if he’s given the chance to lead the Buccaneers who’ll be in desperate search for silverware come the start of the new season.

The 29-year-old is the younger brother of former Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana defender Tsepo Masilela who has enjoyed a decorated career over the years.

Masilela, 37, has been a top professional. He's stayed away from tabloids, while attracting attention by plying his trade in highly ranked leagues such as La Liga in Spain.

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“I get it from Tsepo because he’s the ultimate role model,” said Maela on being disciplined and keeping a low profile off the field.

“But I’ve also seen how the senior players – like Happy and Siyabonga Mpontshane – conduct themselves at training and when they step away from the spotlight.

“Everything is so private and so silent with them. And you can see that the more disciplined you are, the more chances you have in sustaining yourself and talent.

“We all know Tsepo is the ultimate role model and my brother. I’ve seen with my eyes how professional he is. And I’m inspired that I get to learn from the best.”

Should Maela assume the captaincy role, he’ll have to work extra hard in ensuring that his teammates adhere to the philosophy of new coach Jose Riveiro.

The Bucs have a new steward in town, Riveiro, who was appointed this month after Mandla Ncikazi and Fadlu Davids failed to steer the Sea Robbers' ship to steady waters last term.

“Pre-season has been tough,” Maela conceded. “As a group, we are still gelling with the new players and the coach who’s just come in.

“It’s exciting times for the players. He (the coach) came in with a clear game model and as players we know what’s expected of us.”

@Mihlalibaleka

IOL Sport

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