It would mean a lot to ‘Magents’ to lift a CAF trophy
FOR Happy Jele, losing in an Orlando Pirates jersey is a triple blow. There is the disappointment he feels as a player, and then as a fan. But all of that pales in comparison to the feeling he gets from letting down his Uncle Sipho. His uncle is a staunch Pirates fan who planted the seeds of love for the Buccaneers. “He always gives me a hard time when we lose, especially when I am in the team,” Jele said.
The heroics of the Pirates class of 1995 that won the CAF Champions League were a staple diet for Jele, duly fed by his uncle. He watched that game as an eight- year- old, sparking a desire to one day reach those heights wearing the famous black and white.
While the country was captivated by the goal Jerry Sikhosana scored in Ivory Coast against the then Asec Abidjan, now called Asec Mimosas, that gave Pirates their only continental title, Jele was enthralled by someone else.
That person was Edward “Magents” Motale, who played at right back and wore the armband in place of the suspended Innocent Mncwango and went on to lift the Champions League trophy after the Soweto outfit won 3-2 on aggregate with the first leg having ended 2-2.
“That’s one of the most everlasting memories I have as a Pirates fan,” Jele said. “I enjoyed watching him play. Seeing him played a big role in me choosing to play the same position as him. He is also my mentor. I call him whenever I am struggling and if there are certain things that I want to improve on in my game, or when I need advice. He is always willing to listen and offer insight.”
The boots that Motale left were tailor-made for Jele. The 28-year-old doesn’t only play in the same position as Motale, but he also shares a nickname with him. In 2013, he almost also lifted the Champions League trophy in place of regular skipper Lucky Lekgwathi, who was out injured.
“A friend of mine back home is the one who gave me the nickname Magents,” Jele said. “It’s a big source of pride. Motale is a big inspiration in my career and I would love to take the team where he did in his time.”
Jele has a chance to do that tonight in the first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup final against Tunisian giants Étoile du Sahel at Orlando Stadium. Jele has been wearing the captain’s armband in place of the injured Oupa Manyisa in the tournament, only relinquishing it to Rooi Mahamutsa against CS Sfaxien in the semi-final when he himself was sidelined.
But he is back and fully fit and 20 years later, Jele has a chance to also lift a continen- tal cup as a stand-in captain.
It could have happened sooner had Pirates got the better of Al-Ahly two years ago. But like any disappointment that Jele has endured, he has used it as fuel, driving him to achieve bigger and better things. His failed trials in France at RC Lens in 2009 did just that.
“That was a turning point in my career,” he said. “I went there looking to impress and win a contract which didn’t happen. Before I left, I wasn’t a regular at Pirates. That disappointment made me double my efforts and push myself to be a regular. I achieved that and managed to go on an captain the club that I grew up supporting.
“That’s why it would mean so much for me to win this trophy because of the things that I have gone through to be where I am at.”
HAPPY JELE: Hates to disappoint his uncle