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By Katlego Modiba

Football Journalist

Maela proud of Pirates cup success under his captaincy

'Since I've been given the responsibility as a captain this is my fourth medal which is unbelievable,' he said.

Orlando Pirates captain Innocent Maela looks back on his time as club captain with pride, having lifted four trophies in the past two seasons. The 31-year-old was given the armband after long-serving defender Happy Jele left the club two years ago.

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Fast-forward to 2024 and Maela has led the club to back-to-back MTN8 titles as well as the Nedbank Cup under Spanish coach José Riveiro. Although the left-back bears the responsibility of leading the Buccaneers, he also credits the leadership group within the team for their cup success.

“Since I’ve been given the responsibility as a captain this is my fourth medal, which is unbelievable. Personally, from a guy that grew up in the academy who joined the team as a youngster and to be in this position and lift four trophies in my first two years as the captain means a lot to me and it’s special,” he said.

“I always say that it’s for people and all the players that I played with at the academy that didn’t have the opportunity to progress in their careers. I’m sure they are proud of me and this is for them. To all those youngsters out there, keep believing and never give up. It doesn’t really matter how long it takes but be consistent and respect the game.

“It’s a great honour and privilege to lead this club. It’s an amazing feeling and very special. I can only thank the management and players for selecting me. God chooses his leaders and I thank him for blessing me with the understanding, wisdom and the courage to lead because it’s not an easy task. I need to give credit to all the other leaders we have within the team.”

More success

Last season culminated in Pirates lifting the Nedbank Cup and Maela is hoping for a strong start to the 2024/2025 campaign, as the Soweto giants aim for more success by also challenging Mamelodi Sundowns for the DStv Premiership title.

“It’s (success) about the team and new players who are tasting success for the first time, because it’s important for us going forward,” he added.

“Having the mindset of knowing how to go all the way, it gives you confidence and it also gives you confidence when you go into negotiations and want to sign players to improve the squad because the team has just tasted success.

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“Who doesn’t want to be here and represent this brand? We as players that are here, we’re looking forward to an off season that is well deserved. We’re also looking forward to pre-season when we come back and we just need to start next season on a high note because of this success.”