The People's Club

The club became more than a body catering to its immediate members - it became a source of civic pride for the people of Orlando.

"Jimmy 'Hitler' Sobi was a member of the first-ever Pirates second side, formed by Andries 'PelePele' Mkhwanazi in 1940... He waited five years before he got his first-team chance. He recalls:

"'We were all from school in Orlando - I was from Dutch Reformed. Mkhwanazi was working night shift but on his way to work in the afternoon he would watch the schools play and choose [players] for the second division. We were all determined to be in the first team but we never got frustrated. Football was so nice - it was exciting. And we could watch [other teams] and not eat the whole day.'

"In time the club was to become more than an institution catering for its immediate circle of members; it was to become a symbol for Orlando, a source of 'civic pride' and a means through which ordinary residents and football followers alike could derive vicarious pleasure.

"What is significant about Pirates is that they - among the hundreds of clubs that sprouted in the rapidly industrialising Witwatersrand of the late Thirties and the Forties - were one of the few clubs to transcend [that notion] that the rapid proliferation of teams in every locality in late Victorian England was largely the achievement of well-intentioned middle-class reformers; rather:

"'It was the work of the members, of the people themselves. Playing team sports was a way in which men created and sustained close-knit groups in the context of unprecedented urban upheaval... to be part of a team was to have friends, to share a sense of loyalty and struggle together, and to represent your street or workshop, your patch of territory.'

"Therefore Pirates became an institution and a symbol, not just for a street or a patch of territory but for an entire community - and for thousands more.

"Orlando, the community (Sam 'Baboon Shepherd' Shabangu recalls) 'would try by all means to persuade you not to leave... You could even be threatened... If you leave don't play in Jo'burg - or the Transvaal - rather leave for Durban'. If a player broke away, he was viewed as a traitor. 'This was because of the deep symbolic value the club attained amongst the people of Orlando.'

"Pirates was unarguably the 'People's Club'."

- The People's Club: A History of Orlando Pirates, by Richard Maguire (editor of Kick Off magazine), published by the University of the Witwatersrand Press, 1991


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
You′ll need the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader to view these lesson plans. Download it here.
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.