JOHANNESBURG - Happy Jele will step into Cape Town Stadium on Wedneday night with war on his mind in Orlando Pirates’ mini-reunion of some sort in their Nedbank Cup last 16 clash with Cape Town City.
There will be a number of familiar faces for the Pirates’ stalwart on the Citizens’ bench and match-day squad.
Jele played with Tshepo Gumede, Robyn Johannes, Teko Modise and briefly with Thamsanqa Mkhize who was signed and discarded by Pirates before he had played a competitive match for them.
The Citizen’ coach, Benni McCarthy, is Jele’s former teammate while McCarthy’s second assistant, Rayaan Jacobs, worked as the Buccaneers’ technical analyst and coach of the MultiChoice Diski Challenge team.
“Benni has been doing well, especially since this is his first year as a coach,” Jele said. “I know him personally. He knows most of the players who are here because he played with some of them. But when we are on the pitch, it’s going to be war.”
Jele continued, “I have learnt a lot of things from Benni. I learnt from him to have passion for football, the love for the game and respecting people around you. He is a good guy who won a lot of things in his career. You have to learn a lot from such an individual.
"The reason I have spent so many years at Pirates is because of what players like Benni taught me. You have to listen to the older guys and respect them so that you can play more games.”
Jele, who made his Pirates’ debut in 2006, is likely to be the only face McCarthy will recognise from their domestic treble winning days when the Buccaneers step on to the field just before 7.30pm.
Micho Sredojevic and his technical team have dismantled the Pirates of old to usher in a new era by creating an environment where no one is guaranteed a place in the starting XI while giving talent that was discarded by the club and sent all over the country on loan a chance.
Jacobs, who spent eight years at Pirates and even worked with McCarthy there, has more insight on the current crop.
“It’s going to be a difficult one because he knows each and every player in the team,” Jele said. “He was working here. He just left. But in football you never know. You can make the wrong prediction. We have to work harder because they know us. He was here for a long time and he used to talk with the coaches of the first team.”
The Buccaneers’ campaign in the Nedbank Cup last season ended in disappointment as they were thumped by SuperSport United in the final in Durban. Matsatsantsa a Pitori put the final nail in the Soweto giants’ coffin that night having also put the first nail by handing them the 6-0 drubbing in the league that led to their downward spiral and coach Muhsin Ertugral resigning live on television.
Sredojevic was brought in to revive Pirates and return them to their former glory. Doing well in the Nedbank Cup would contribute to that healing process.
“We have had some ups and down in this competition,” Jele said. “We were not happy because we lost in the final. You can’t be happy when you lose a final. We will try by all means to take it one game at a time with the aim of appearing in another final. We need to progress to the next round and see what happens afterwards.”