Happy Jele knows that his time in the game is nearing an end, but the desire to improve his game and hunger to continue representing Orlando Pirates drives him forward.
At the start of the 2020/21 season, Jele found playing opportunities hard to come by as Thulani Hlatshwayo was preferred ahead of him to partner with Ntsikelelo Nyauza in central defence.
But, Jele has since reclaimed his position in the team – donning the armband in the last five league matches for the ‘Buccaneers’. He has played 11 matches in all competitions this campaign, absent in seven.
“It feels great to play for Orlando Pirates for such a long time and obviously this season personally I didn’t start well, and I had to work so hard to come back for my position,” said Jele, who joined the Soweto giants back in 2006.
“And now at least I am getting some game time, but I still need to improve a lot of things in my game, so far it is good, but I have to push and help the team as well to get something.”
The 34-year-old defender has made over 350 appearances for Pirates and tasted his fair share of success with the club having won the Premiership title on two occasions, the MTN8 thrice, the Nedbank Cup twice and the Telkom Knockout once.
Pirates’ most recent triumph is the MTN8 – a trophy that they clinched after a five-year barren run but Jele was not part of the celebrations as he was “sicked” according to Josef Zinnbauer.
However, in the DStv Premiership, Pirates have been inconsistent this year with 12 points out of a possible tally of 27 in fifth position on the log after 16 matches, eight points behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns
Jele says the club’s below-par performances are due to a of concentration and effort but insists they they are working around the clock to improve.
“Each and every game we want to play as a team but some of the games we lose them because of lack of concentration and all we need is just to put more effort consistently,” added Jele.
“I think at the beginning of the year, we lost a lot of things like concentration. The effort has also been lacking a little bit,” said captain Jele.
“But we have to show up, raise our hands and prove that it’s us that need to play and not the coach. We need to pull up our socks because we are capable of doing well. We showed that in the MTN8.
“So, we have to push and lift each other up as well. We need to get the results regularly and be consistent in our league matches.”
The Soweto giants’ next encounter is against GladAfrica Championship side Uthongathi FC at home, the Orlando Stadium, on Saturday afternoon as they start their Nedbank Cup campaign.
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi