Giants of the Junior League

In 1939, a group of lively St John's School lads formed themselves into a football club and called themselves Pirates.

"The newly-formed Pirates played in junior league association games and competed against other schools.

"School soccer was played enthusiastically and the schools in Orlando competed with each other on an inter-school basis at both junior and senior school level. The school players competed on a few, uneven, hard sandy pitches - not unlike the pitches today's youths perform on. They played barefoot and probably wore their school uniforms on the field of play.

"The inter-schools competition received a boost in numbers in 1937 when about seven new schools were opened. This dramatic increase of schools coincided with the forced influx of the remaining residents of Prospect. In their number were several of Sam 'Baboon Shepherd' Shabangu's fellow Pirates founder members, who joined Orlando Boys' Club that year. Most of the teenage boys who formed the nucleus of the original Pirates side belonged to the Orlando Boys' Club, although they already knew each other as schoolmates or as members of opposition teams in the inter-school competitions.

"Shabangu, who was 15 at the time, recalls the formation of the team: 'At the Boys Club we had everything - table tennis, physical culture, weight lifting, boxing... except football. We decided, why don't we have a football team of our own? We called ourselves the Orlando Boys' Football Club.'

"The team had already completed the 1938 season in a minor division of the Johannesburg Bantu Football Association (JBFA). The youngsters used to travel four on a bicycle, or sometimes even cut across on foot, to Sophiatown where they played at the Waterval grounds. They turned out barefooted, and without a proper playing strip, wearing a variety of shirts. The young team was only to get proper 'colours' after Bethuel Mokgosinyana took an interest in them in 1940. By this time the youths had already decided to go it alone and had named themselves Pirates in 1939."

- Source: Drum, June 1980


back to the Bethuel Mokgosinyana memorial page

"Without Bethuel Mokgosinyana, there would be no Buccaneers."
Bethuel Mokgosinyana
Pirates fans, 1970s
Bailey's History Archives


Tradition as historical source

In this lesson plan, learners are asked to think about how the oral traditions that people create around their favourite sports teams can be a historical source. We use Bethuel Mokgosinyana and the story of the origins of Orlando Pirates as our example.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
A selection of images of Orlando Pirates players and their huge fan base
Artwork Photo Gallery
See Sam Nhlengethwa’s memorial outside the Mokgosinyana family home in Orlando, Soweto.
Audio Documentary
The formation of Orlando Pirates in the late 1930s was the defining moment in the growth of mass support for soccer in SA. This documentary explains why.
Orlando Pirates and the Struggle
Donald Dliwayo, a former chairman of Orlando Pirates, reminisces about the team’s contribution to the liberation struggle.