Orlando Pirates bid emotional farewell to most-capped player Happy Jele
Orlando Pirates have announced that they will not be renewing the contract of their most-capped player, centreback and long-time captain Happy Jele.
Jele, 35, joined Bucs from amateur team Walter Stars in 2006. He was an integral part of Bucs’ famous back-to-back treble-winning teams of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, and the side that reached the 2013 Caf Champions League final.
When Lucky Lekgwathi, the veteran defender who captained that team, retired in 2016 Jele inherited the armband. He has 401 caps for Bucs.
Pirates said on Monday: “After 16 amazing years with us, we bid farewell to our future hall-of-famer.
“Our central defender and club captain, who has reached the end of his contract, will be leaving the club. This marks the end of Happy Jele’s momentous career with us.
“Orlando Pirates can confirm that Happy Jele met with the chair of the club [Irvin Khoza] at the end of the 2021-2022 season to discuss his future. During these deliberations, which spanned a three-week period, the club discussed various job options available to the long- serving defender in a non-playing capacity.
“Subsequent to this meeting, the 35-year-old was afforded time to go home and think about it.
“Ordinarily, players are released at the end of the players’ contract but in Happy’s case, as he has a special place in the club, having served Pirates so professionally over the past 16 years, the chair specifically asked the player for his input.
“A follow-up meeting was held two weeks later where Happy expressed his intention to continue playing football beyond the 2021-2022 season, an option that unfortunately is not available.
“Everyone at Orlando Pirates would like to express enormous gratitude to Happy Jele and wish him the best of luck for the future.
“Happy arrived from the amateur club Walter Stars in 2006 as a lanky and unassuming 19-year-old. Today, he leaves a place he has called home for the past 16 years as a legend, captain, husband and father.
“In those 16 years, he won eight trophies, made over 400 appearances and scored 18 goals.
“Happy is a special character who has answered every call the club has made of him throughout the years, which is why he has a future at the club beyond his playing days.
“Everyone at Orlando Pirates would like to express the enormous gratitude to Happy Jele and wish him the very best of luck for the future.”
Jele also led Pirates to the 2021-2022 Caf Confederation Cup final last season, where they lost on penalties against Morocco’s RS Berkane in Uyo, Nigeria in May.