Featuring original articles from Drum, our archive offers snapshots of popular Sowetan culture and describes how the Pirates team became a symbol of Orlando the place. It also explores the splits that plagued the team around its transition to professional football.
RESEARCH: Text/archive — Jane Sathekge | Photos/video — Nhlanhla Mthethwa
» 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.
» OFF THE STREETS AND IN THE GAME
As boys’ and girls’ recreational clubs sprouted around Johannesburg in the 1930s, Andries "PelePele" Mkhwanazi and Bethuel Mokgosinyana, the founding fathers of Orlando Pirates, groomed their team for glory.
» CREAM OF THE CROP
The dictate that only boys from Orlando, or the children of Orlando residents, could play for Pirates, deepened the players’ sense of self-worth and pride in the knowledge that they were Orlando’s "pick".
» 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.
» DISSENT IN THE RANKS
The idea of professional football forged rifts among the Pirates players and, following the arrival of club patron David Motsomai, there were whirlwind changes to the way things had been done before.