Former Orlando Pirates striker Lelo Blaise Mbele has revealed how his time at the club put down the foundation to the millions he earned through his career.
Mbele was snapped by Pirates at the beginning of the 2005/06 season after his goals made noise for Zulu Royals in the Mvela Golden League after arriving from AS Vita.
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He then spent two years at Pirates before moving to Tunisia in a career mostly spent in the Middle East countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Sudan, and Algeria.
Besides South Africa and his homeland DR Congo, he also played in Angola, Malaysia, and the Turkish Cypriot League before calling it quits in 2017 having struggled with injury for six years.
"I came to Orlando as a 17-year-old and at that time I wasn’t playing for money but just for exposure because I wanted to be seen but when I left all the teams started to give me lots of money," Mbele discloses in an interview with KickOff from his base in Kinshasa where is now the team manager for AS Vita Club.
"After I left Orlando, I went on to collect 1 million in US dollars (approx. R17 million).
"If you come here to Congo then you will see who Lelo is.
"I played in Saudi Arabia where Cristiano Ronaldo now plays but with me, I was with the biggest club there Al Hilal and in one year there I collected USD 1 million (approx. R17 million).
"Even after my first stint in Saudi Arabia [where he joined a USD1,2 million (approx. R21 million) transfer plus USD25000 (approx. R440 000 salary in 2007), I went to Esperance for good money and then went on to another million move in Sudan and Libya.
"All this happened because of Pirates so that is why I say South Africa is a good league.
"I collected money all over because of Pirates.
"I never wanted to leave Pirates, but I had no choice because I was wanted elsewhere.
"Football in South Africa is far much better than here in DR Congo because it gives you the exposure.
"I’m one guy who enjoyed all his time at Pirates because we were like family and all the problems were solved.
"How could I have not enjoyed playing with Gift Leremi, Cheeseboy (Lebohang Mokoena), Tso Vilakazi, Steve Lekoelea, Duku-Duku Makhanya while there were good people like Nkosana Khoza in the office.
"I did my best for the club, and they gave me everything I needed.
"Orlando Pirates gave me the name all over Africa.
"I’m what I am now because of Orlando Pirates, I played for them in the Champions League and was seen by clubs from all over," says Mbele.
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