Arts, Culture & Heritage

Orlando Pirates and Bethuel Mokgosinyana

Last Updated: July 30, 2023
Artist

Sam Nhlengethwa

A Brief History

This story begins in 1937, with the formation of the Orlando Boys Club – one of a network of boys and girls recreational clubs established on the Reef in the 1930s. Without boots or kit, the Orlando Boys’ Club team started to play, under the guidance of the team’s first coach, Pele Pele Mkhwanazi.

In 1939, Mkhwanazi tied his team’s fortunes to Bethuel Mokgosinyana, a relatively affluent factory foreman, self-styled social worker and devout Christian, who became the team’s first president.

Mokgosinyana donated his former team's kit, black jerseys and white shorts, to the Pirates, making black and white the official team colours. The first kit featured a large “P” emblazoned on the chest (Mokgosinyana’s previous team was called Puur Vuur).

The name ‘Pirates’ was suggested by the goalie, Reggie ‘Hasie’ Nkosi after a popular action movie.

Mokgosinyana campaigned his whole life to link the club and the township in which it was started, transforming Pirates into a symbol of Orlando.

Mokgosinyana, who said he would have been a priest if not for football, began and ended Wednesday evening team meetings at his Orlando East home with a prayer.

The Pirates slept at Mokgosinyana's house the night before a game. According to players, a secret ritual took place in the backyard shack. Mokgosinyana would take a burning coal and put it on the ground and place a fatty substance on the coal. This would make lots of smoke and when he struck a match and put it on the coal, the smoke would vanish.

All the way to their matches they would not speak to anyone on the train, only nodding their heads if someone spoke to them.

Many Orlando residents supported the Pirates because they believed that football was an excellent way to develop self-respect and civic mindedness among the youth — a healthy alternative to them joining the tsotsis.

 

Description

A 1m x 1.3m wide oil painting on metal, framed by shatterproof glass that has been sandblasted with the Orlando Pirates FC emblem.

Artist Sam Nhlengethwa said his Pirates artwork was inspired by three visual references - the exterior of Bethuel Mokgosinyana’s house in Orlando East, Soweto, where the work is erected; a picture of Mokgosinyana himself; and several news pictures of Pirates’ supporters. He decided to do an oil painting on metal, a technique he had used in his Mine Trip exhibition at the Goodman Gallery in 1996. He placed the painting in a frame of shatter-proof glass that was sandblasted with the pirates emblem.

Artist’s Statement:
“From a little boy of five years old, I’ve been a Pirates fan” said Sam Nhlengethwa. “I used to keep A3 foolscap exercise books at school and at the end of the year, make that my album of Orlando Pirates. I used Orlando Pirates pictures and made collages. It was sort of my first art. I was in primary school.”

 

Artwork Signage

This story begins in 1937, with the formation of the Orlando Boys Club – one of a network of boys and girls recreational clubs established on the Reef in the 1930s. Without boots or kit, the Orlando Boys’ Club team started to play, under the guidance of the team’s first coach, Pele Pele Mkhwanazi.

In 1939, Mkhwanazi tied his team’s fortunes to Bethuel Mokgosinyana, a relatively affluent factory foreman, self-styled social worker and devout Christian, who became the team’s first president.

Mokgosinyana donated his former team's kit, black jerseys and white shorts, to the Pirates, making black and white the official team colours. The first kit featured a large “P” emblazoned on the chest (Mokgosinyana’s previous team was called Puur Vuur).

The name ‘Pirates’ was suggested by the goalie, Reggie ‘Hasie’ Nkosi after a popular action movie.

Mokgosinyana campaigned his whole life to link the club and the township in which it was started, transforming Pirates into a symbol of Orlando.

Mokgosinyana, who said he would have been a priest if not for football, began and ended Wednesday evening team meetings at his Orlando East home with a prayer.

The Pirates slept at Mokgosinyana's house the night before a game. According to players, a secret ritual took place in the backyard shack. Mokgosinyana would take a burning coal and put it on the ground and place a fatty substance on the coal. This would make lots of smoke and when he struck a match and put it on the coal, the smoke would vanish.

All the way to their matches they would not speak to anyone on the train, only nodding their heads if someone spoke to them.

Many Orlando residents supported the Pirates because they believed that football was an excellent way to develop self-respect and civic mindedness among the youth — a healthy alternative to them joining the tsotsis.

 

Location & Address

31 Khunou Street, Orlando East, Soweto. Artwork is mounted to the street facing wall of the Mokgosinyana home.