In celebration of Orlando Pirates 80th anniversary this year, we have decided to compile of list of 50 greatest ever players to have worn the black and white jersey . We know that this list will elicit a lot of debates over the next four weeks. We start this week with the countdown from number 50 to 41.
50: Albert “Bashin” Mahlangu, he joined the club from Sundowns as part of a swap deal with Basil Steenkamp, which saw Donald Khuse going the other route. Was a midfielder with a knack for goals. He could hit from any range. Tall and skilfull and huge fan favourite, hence they christened him ” ayashisa amateki this is not my size” after the hit song by Mercy Phakela.
49: Innocent “Ayobayo” Mayoyo, a stylish and flamboyant keeper, who was a true professional and very vocal. He won the 1988 Bobsave Super Bowl cup after they beat Kaizer Chiefs. Quite a maverick but loved by the fans.
48: Lesley ” Slow Poison” Manyathela, was the mainstay of pirates attack in the 2002/3 League winning side under the tutelage of coach Roy Barreto. He was unassumingly slow but a deadly finisher in the box. Arguably one the best finishers of his generation.
47: Senzo Meyiwa, came via the clubs youth structures and waited for his turn to blossom into One of Africa’s great keepers. A brave shot stopper who was very agile, and he was good in the air for such a short keeper . His career was cut short tragically when he died in a bizarre shooting incident .
46: Steve ” Chippa” Lekoelea, was a dazzling, skillfull midfielder with massive potential. He could score free kicks , take great corners. Could dribble, could pass and created many goals for strikers. One on one he was devastating. Injuries and lack of disciplined prevented him from true Legendary status.
45: Baboon Shepherd Shabangu was a great midfielder who played in the 60’s . A tough tackling midfielder who could create goals as well. Was a fan favourite , he would have fans at the Indian Sports ground cheering in unison ” Baboon Shepherd”. He is the father of cabinet minister Susan Shabangu.
44: Basil ” Kapse Dans” Steenkamp, he turned out to be a great signing, joining the club as part of a swap deal. He was quick and clever.a prolific goalscorer for the club. Was reliable and dependable .
43: Alfred ” Shakes” Gwabeni, a midfielder with a big engine. Exceedingly talented. Was always around the ball, created and scored goals.
42: Lucky Lekgwathi, committed captain , always wearing his heart on his sleeves . He led the team to a double treble. Served the club with distinction for 14 years to take his place amongst the club’ s greats.
41: Jerry ” legs of thunder” Sikhosana, fondly remembered for the goal he scored in Abidjan against Asec Mimosa that delivered the African Cup. He was aggressive, quick and could thump the ball with incredible power. Clever player and very street wise, in the mound of Barcelona striker Luis Suarez.
40: Dennis” Chesa Mpama” Lota, a deadly finisher with a bizarre celebration of rubbing his hands together. Clever striker, who knew how to position himself and scored goals from unbelievable angles.
39: Williams Okpara, an imposing figure in terms of stature. Good shot stopper, very agile and brave. He played a key role in 1995 team that won the African Champions Cup.
38: Eric ” Chippa” Chauke, the ” Principal” was a polished midfielder who pulled strings in the middle of the park. He had the ability to see and make a pass before the opposition could anticipate . A real special player.
37: Jeffrey ” Tornando” Ntsibande, a pure goalscorer. The original number 9. A real handful for defenders. could hit the ball with both legs and used his great upper body strength to protect the ball. He packed unbelievable power.
36: Jerry Sadike, he joined the club Kaizer Chiefs in the late 70’s. Very skillfull attacking midfielder, very quick and scored lots of goals . Born in Orlando Pirates and made his name with Pimville United brothers, here he played with the likes of Chris Rollaway Ndlovu, Yster Khomane and George Best More.
35: Ronny “Mainline” Zondi, a sturdy figure at the back and captain. A great communicator. Good reader of the game. Could build attacks from the back, and had great technical ability.
34: Teko Modise, poster of his generation. Joined the team from Supersport United where he wasn’t getting game time, and his career reached new heights at the Club winning the PSL Footballer of the year in the 2008/2009 season. A true midfield general, could score free kicks. Had a great work ethic and blessed with a wonderful technique. He could Influence results for the team.
33: Toy Ramosa, quick, and clever versatile midfielder. He could run all day, could create and score goals . A dependable player who was a must have in the team.
32: Ernest ” Botsotso ” Makhanya, a super talented player with a wonderful left foot. Clever play who could dictate the pace of the game. Great passer of the ball. A dead-ball specialist. One of the best penalty the game has ever seen.
31: Kagiso ” Zero” Mogale, a stockily built central midfielder. Could influence the game with his excellent passing range and his football intelligence . A must have in any team. Given his trickery and ability to read the game he could easily have played in the modern game.
30: Hellman ” Midnight express” Mkhalele was a real livewire who could open up defenders with his blazing pace and dribbling skills. Blessed with a dark complexion the winger led Pirates to the 1994 League title and was part of the 1995 Champions Cup winning team. He could score brilliant goals and was very effective in creating opportunities for his teammates with his pin-point crosses. Shy and unassuming but a real crowd favourite and the first name on the team-list for any coach.
29: Chilliboy “Nobby Styles” Koloba a great, astute central defender who was physically imposing and hard in the tackle. A no-nonsense defender who put his best foot forward all the time. Extremely agile and was known for his overhead clearances that also pushed forwards to score goals during set-pieces. A dependable guy who could read the game well. Tough a tick and was part of South African All-Stars (NPSL) team that visited Swaziland in the 1977-78 season.
28: Mark “Feeesh” Fish was a swashbuckling defender with loads of attributes that was indicative of a player that had been converted from being a striker during his days at Jomo Cosmos. A player with a huge engine room whose attacking style saw him go on advanced surges into opposition territory. Strong in aerial duels and incredibly comfortable on the ball. A real crowd favourite and undoubtedly the most complete and outstanding talent of the modern game.
27: Mbulelo Mabizela a sight to behold on the ball, he was one of the most naturally gifted defenders who could play anywhere in the back four. Since arriving at Pirates the central defender who also played in midfield as a holding player had plenty of attributes that are seen in exception players worldwide. It was no surprise EPL side Tottenham Hotspur signed him in 2004 although his football was blighted by off the field shenanigans.
26: Dan “Dance” Malesela Captain my Captain, who led by example. A great ball player whose understanding of football was his greatest assert. A defender of quality who could build by starting attacks deep in his half. An extremely vocal play who was a coaches dream on the field given his leadership qualities. Led Pirates to the 1988 BobSave Super Bowl and started the rival of the club as a force in local football after a lot of upheavals about leadership at the time.
25: Steward Lilley was an extremely elegant centre-back who was as cool as a cucumber and joined Pirates from Highlands Park. A centre-back who was hardly caught off-guard given his exceptional positional play. Extremely smart, comfortable on the ball and started most of Pirates attack from defence given his great ball skills.
24: Benedict Vilakazi was a lion in the middle of the field that was extremely bigger than his short height suggested. The “Little Napoleon” who ran rings around opponents with such guile and commitment. In his eight years with Pirates from 1998- 2006 he had no pears and still remains Pirates leading goalscorer in derby matches against Kaizer Chiefs. A coaches’dream; who led by example. A fan favourite, whose awareness on the field was far superior and allowed him to be ahead of his opponents.
23: Phil Ntsoseng a sturdy midfielder whose task was to protect the defence whilst breaking the oppositions attacking moves. A hardworking and dependable midfielder; who was rarely caught off-guard. Strong on the ball and powerful with a good ball distribution sense.
22: Steven “Stimela” Mnguni was a true warrior with a huge engine room who could run all day. A hard tackler, strong in the middle of the park and built like a tank. A true ball winner who was committed to the team ethics. He joined Chiefs in his later years as a professional. Mnguni was credited with nurturing the talents of soccer players like Teko “General” Modise and Benedict “Tso” Vilakazi.
21: Blessing ” Killer” Ngidi was a prolific striker of his generation who was cunning and with a great positional sense. He was not entire skillful but made it up with great runs into areas and a good balance. He possessed a good first touch and was a fine finisher. A real killer in the box.
20: Phil ” Mr Jones ” Setshedi a tough as tick defender who never resorted to rough tackling to win the ball. Many referred to him as “Mr Clean” who always leaving the field with short pants that looked like they were hardly used following 90 minutes of football. A lynchpin of the Pirates defence of the 1970 and early 80s, Setshedi was dependable whether in the air or a tackle. A natural born leader who later assumed the coaching reigns of the club and was Clive Barker’s number two during the 1996 AFCON winning Bafana Bafana side.
19: King Kaizer Matatazela Mkhwanazi a great, skillful midfielder of his time. A trendsetter who created plenty of goals for his teammates with his silky-skills and brilliant close control. Tricky and intelligent with ability to open up the oppositions. Recruited to the Pirates team by non other than Scara Sono on a campaign trail to bring fresh blood to the Ghost. A man with exceptional talent to can play anywhere in world football.
18: Johannes ” Yster” Khomane was a rock in defence that no opposition player wanted to go toe-to-toe with him fighting for the ball. He had stamina, pace and was a hard tackler. He could overlap all day supplying quality crosses to the strikers but still had the energy to be back in his position defensively at all times. Yster still works for the clubs development structures and is father to Papi Khomane who captained Pirates during his time at the club. “Ayigobheki le Ntsimbi”, you can’t twist this Iron rod. He joined Pirates from Pimville United Brothers and never looked back in a fruitful career that was characterized by bold, uncompromising style of football, a reflection of his remarkable level of fitness.
17: Keith “Mthakathi” Broad is the 1980 Golden Boot winner with 28 goals for the Ghost. The First white player to represent the Buccaneers in 1979 when he was signed from Wits University. A true-predator in front of goals who terrorized defenders and was difficult to contain given his imposing size. A darling with the supporters after they gave him a torrid start to his career with the Soweto side. They eventually nicknamed him “Mthakathi” believing he bewitched defenders to score goals and also Pirates supporters to accept him. Also he was first in the queue when Pirates did their pre-match rituals. Opened up the way for Pirates to sign other great white players like Phil Venter, Mike Lambert, Stuart Lilly and Patrick “Sgantsontso” Wasmuth. A symbol of resistance for the Ghost during apartheid South Africa.
16: George ” Harare” Makhubela arguably the most solid and complete defender of his era mainly playing at right fullback. Strong, balanced and energetic the man covered the field with relative ease. A coaches dream player who never set a foot wrong on the field of play. He could deliver great crosses into the box and was good passer of the ball. Equally adaptable and sometimes played in the middle of the field as an enforcer; to demonstrate his versatility. A fan favourite who was natural born leader.
15: Meshack ” Mr Executive ” Mjangqeka was composed well-rounded footballer that set tongues wagging whenever Pirates played. From his central midfield position he was always in control of the ball and could dictate the pace of the game. Exceptionally good defensively and equally at home in attack, Meshack was a complete football who was rightfully nicknamed “Mr Executive” to show is uniqueness to his teammates and club on the field of play. He later played for Benoni United with the likes of Litre Lata, a young Roger de Sa and William Khura Makhura.
14: Amos ” Heel Extension ” Mkhari was a wonderful, gloriously gifted midfielder who turned heads whenever on the field for the Ghost in the 70 and early 80s. He insisted on making his final pass to his teammates via the outrageous “back heel” of the foot. He possessed the most educated left foot in the football business and it is argued that he could make the ball to talk. A trickster genius, that scored and also created goals for his teammates with relative ease. A very popular figure with the Ghost supporters, who marveled his skills.
13: Nick “Bazooka” Seshweni was a loyal, committed and hard working midfielder who led by example at all times. A complete footballer; who could play in a number of assorted positions when required to fill gaps due to injuries or suspensions. A player of exceptional quality who scored goals and was a symbol of the club throughout his stay with the Ghost. Under his leadership Pirates won titles and even overcame stressful eras of infighting and instability. The fittest man on the field; who never shirked his responsibilities and was extra coach on the field. A good communicator capable of reading the game with aplomb to plot the opposition’s downfall. A symbol of Pirates’ never say die fighting spirit.
12: Alfred ” Russia” Jacobs was referred to as “From Russia with Love” given his exception skills goal scoring penchant, that every-time he scored his goals were a gift of love to the supporters. A fox in the box striker with quick reaction skills, he could strike the ball well and although not skillful his runs around the opposition last line of defence always created goals for him and his teammates. Exceedingly talented player and a great-spotter of football talent beyond his playing days. A winner at all cost, who seldom gave-up and served as an example to his teammates and anyone who craved to succeed in life.
11: Macdonald ” Rhee” Skhosanawas an exciting striker who scored plenty of goals for the Ghost. Quick, skillful and deceptive; he had the ability to shoot accurately from even some obscure angles. A truly complete striker who was dependable for the Ghost and a fan favourite. Whenever he touched the ball the whole stadium erupted with sounds of “Rheeeeeee”
10: Ephraim ” Shakes” Mashaba was a colossal defender with a great physical stature. A powerful man who put the fear in the opposition strikers. Shakes mastered the art of “total football” way before it was fashionable with the Dutch tag. In defence, central midfield or as a striker, he fitted seamless. He had fantastic technique and was unshakable. A great footballer of his generation who was also part of the 1973 Clean Sweep side and a Black International of his era.
9: Roman “Big Boy” Kholoane was a striker who scored plenty of goals for Orlando Pirates and later in his years moved to defence with equal aplomb. A fan favourite with the Ghost supporters. Armed with great balance, sharp anticipation and great interpretation skills, Big Boy was a coaches delight and a true professional on and off the field.
8: Jomo “Troublemaker” “Matsilele” “Makhanda” Sono was the son of Orlando Pirates superstar Eric Sono who was born into greatness. Extremely two footed and was identifiable with his famous number 10 jersey. A free-kick specialist who was well known for his banana-kicks and back-heels that kept the opposition guessing. A dynamic striker with lots of pace also netted well over 100 goals. Sportsman of the year in 1973 and Footballer of the year in 1980, Sono won many football accolades with his flamboyant style. A showman who represented New York Cosmos, Colorado Caribous, Atlanta Chiefs and Toronto Blizzard during his six season stay in the USA scoring 36 goals. Pirates honored his contribution to the club by retiring his number 10 jersey in the year 2000.
7: Patson ” Sparks” Banda one of the most flamboyant goalkeepers of his era with a career spanning over two decade. Represented South Africa in the first mixed raced team that defeated Argentina XI 5-0 in 1976. He won countless medals with the Ghost and was in the team that completed the clean-sweep of titles on offer in a calendar year in 1973. A great shot stopper with out-astonishing reflexes.
6: Webster “City Late” Lichaba not too many players that went into battle with him can ever claim to have outfoxed this outstanding midfielder with plenty of exceptional characteristics. City played in the North American League for three seasons and was a regular on the field for Atlanta Chiefs. A great winner of the ball who-scored goals from his deep-position. One of the most intelligent players on the field of play; who read the game with exceptional precision. Bra Web was of the best holding-midfielder of his generation and father to top South African musician; Lira.
5: Kaizer “Chincha Guluva” Motaung one of the most prolific finisher of his era and well-balanced player. Not easy to bring down and a menace for defenders. Created balance upfront given his brilliant left-foot in the left and right strike force. An exceptionally quick striker whose close control was unmatched. Kaizer was a rear-breed of players with guile and style and it was not surprising that he became the first overseas export for the club in 1968 representing Atlanta Chiefs and Denver Dynamos in the USA based NASL scoring 43 goals in his five years stay and making 98 first team appearances.
4: Eric “Scara” Sono one of clubs first Star player of his era. He struck a great accord with Chippa Moloi to devastating effect as they put fear amongst oppositions defence and scored some scintillating goals for the Ghost. He created a legacy for the Buccaneers that lasted to this era. He also played a cardinal role in recruiting players from School around the township like Kaizer Motaung, Dingaan Phakathi and Kaizer Mkhwanazi and also promoted equally talented twins Tikki and Mainline Khoza from the Junior ranks up to the senior team. A true Pirates Legend who’s the bloodline and rock of the Ghost. A wizard inside-forward, brilliant strategist and a player who was not easily dispossessed.
3: Abraham “Mainline” Khoza was a fantastic midfielder whose specialty was long range passes that split the opposition’s defence and opened up attacking playing options. He packed a mean shot and scored a number of spectacular goals from distance. The best of his generation having represented the team in the 1960s, he could put strikers on the straight and narrow track hence his nickname “Mainline” “Isitimela saMampondo” suggested. A complete player with little notable faults, he could have easily played in the modern game.
2: Bernard ” Dancing Shoes ” Hartze, The former Tampa Bay Rowdies man who was born in Marabastad was an exceptional ball artist of the 1960s and 70s. He represented Sundowns and Berea before migrating to the Buccaneers. Joined the ghost in 1967 and started terrorizing defender with his ball skills and goal scoring prowess. A finisher par-excellent with a thirst for goals and equally the most compete player of his generation. Whilst playing in Durban officials tired to change his nationally to register him as white so that he could feature in the NFL. A real “Dancing Shoes” who did what his nickname suggested as he sliced through defenders leaving sprawled on the turf.
1: Percy ” Chippa” Moloi, was the first Orlando Pirates superstar to score over 100 goals. The South African equivalent to Brazilian world acclaimed football super-star Pele. Represented Transvaal United in his formative years and showed enough brilliance to alert the ghost to pounce on him. A natural genius that could do no wrong; as he left plenty of spectators wondering how did he do that? Left Pirates in 1967 to join Moroka Swallows but returned back with the Ghost in 1973 at the ripe age of 38 to reclaim his Ghost legacy lead Pirates to the Clean Sweep of trophies. A South African Black international of his era that coaches named first on any team-sheet. The force that made dribbling sexy and changed perception of plenty of European coaches about natural flair and its usage. A true unsung hero of football; who laid a solid foundation for the modern South African game and popularized the number 8 jersey at the club.