Mbulelo Mabizela

Mbulelo OJ Mabizela pictured with Cristiano Ronaldo. Images via Twitter @football__stage, @molematz

Orlando Pirates defender extraordinaire: Where’s OJ Mabizela now?

From playing for the Bucs to shining in Tottenham, going AWOL and abusing drugs – Mbulelo ‘Oldjohn’ Mabizela was a flawed football maestro.

Mbulelo Mabizela

Mbulelo OJ Mabizela pictured with Cristiano Ronaldo. Images via Twitter @football__stage, @molematz

A coach’s dream. That is how many football supporters and players would describe “bad boy” Mbulelo “Oldjohn” Mabizela.

The Pietermaritzburg-born soccer star is described by many as one of the best defenders this country has ever seen. However, his footballing career never reached its full potential as he threw all of it away due to drug abuse, alcoholism and ill-discipline.

ALSO READ: Andile Jali’s ex-wife: Where is fitness bunny Nonhle Ndala now?


Mabizela caused havoc when he burst into the scene at Orlando Pirates in 2001. He was 21 at the time.

Two years later and he became the youngest player to captain Bafana Bafana in June 2003, when he was 22 turning 23 on 16 September that year.

After being instrumental in the Buccaneers’ 2-1 victory against English Premier League (EPL) side Tottenham Hotspur in their 2003/2004 pre-season Vodacom Challenge match, the Lilywhites’ manager at the time signed young Mabizela.

ALSO READ: Inside Lorch’s eviction order, R140K loan from ex-girlfriend


The South African had a promising start abroad, however, his stint was soon marred with reports of drinking, late coming and missed training sessions. Spurs terminated his contract and he was offered a trial at another London side, Fulham, but was turned down because he was not fit enough. But he was given a lifeline by Norway’s Valerenga before returning home to feature for Mamelodi Sundowns.

Things went from bad to worse when he was banned by Masandawana in 2006 for drug offences. Mabizela also drove then-Bafana Bafana coach, Joel Santana, up the wall when he went AWOL (absent without leave) in 2008 and missed out on the 2010 Soccer World Cup for famously telling ex-Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira he was “better than any defender”.

The “bad boy” football star then went on to play for Platinum Stars and later, Bidvest Wits, Chippa United, Mpumalanga Black Aces and finally, AmaZulu.

ALSO READ: Former Kaizer Chiefs defender Katsande’s R2m house woes

Former Tottenham superstar Mbulelo Mabizela. Image: Twitter @SpursOfficial


Mabizela is now an HIV/Aids councillor, according to an interview he did with the SABC in 2019.

He now spends most of his time giving advice to young people on how to spend their money wisely and avoid drug and alcohol abuse. During the interview, he revealed that before his regrettable life choices, he was well on his way to playing for Spanish giants Barcelona.

In July last year, Mabizela made headlines when he took a dig at the current DStv Premier Soccer League (PSL) players, telling seasoned sportscaster, Robert Marawa, on his show MSW that he no longer watches the league. OJ said that the standard of football has significantly dropped.

ALSO READ: Ex-Kaizer Chiefs star Reneilwe Letsholonyane battles bank repossession

Earlier this year, AmaZulu announced the arrival of Mabizela and former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane as part of their Project 2023 Youth Programme. Mabizela is the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) club’s assistant coach for the Under-13 side.

Mbulelo Mabizela returns to AmaZulu as assistant coach for U13 team. Photo: @AmaZuluFootball/Twitter
Mbulelo Mabizela returns to AmaZulu as assistant coach for U13 team. Photo: @AmaZuluFootball/Twitter