Marriott Bonvoy, proud Official Partner of Orlando Pirates F.C., speak to four of the team's stars – Richard Ofori, Miguel Timm, Tshegofatso Mabasa and Phillip Ndlondlo – to understand what makes them tick when they hit the road.

On match days, Soweto buzzes as Orlando Pirates F.C. take centre stage. #Buccaneer fans clad in the Johannesburg team’s black and white stream through the streets, in contrast with the saturated colours of South African sunshine and blue skies. And when they score a goal, get ready for the iconic Orlando Stadium to explode in joy with horns, whistles, stamping feet and glorious shouts – Up the Bucs! – as the crowd leaps up to accompany the players’ famously synchronised celebratory dances.

With over 7 million followers worldwide who know them as the Pirates, the Buccaneers, or simply the Bucs, Orlando Pirates F.C. are one of South Africa’s longest-established football teams. Beginning life in 1937 as a group of teenagers playing amateur football, the team have risen to become a giant of South Africa’s top tier premier league. In fact, they’ve been at the forefront of the sport for decades, winning silverware that’s the second-highest haul in all of South African footballing history – nine national league titles and 36 cup trophies that include eight South African FA Cups, twelve MTN 8 titles, a League Cup, CAF Champions League and CAF Super Cup. It’s no wonder they have such a devoted following.

With travel close to many of the players' hearts, Marriott Bonvoy, proud Official Partner of Orlando Pirates F.C., spoke to four of the team's stars – Tshegofatso Mabasa, Phillip Ndabayithetwa Ndlondlo, Richard Ofori and Miguel Timm – to understand what makes them tick when they hit the road.

Where are your favourite places – near or far – and what does travel mean to you?

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town boasts intimate beaches, glorious sunshine and one of the world's seven wonders, Table Mountain (Photo: Getty Images) 

Even though South Africa is their home, the players appreciate the country's diverse travel opportunities – from the hidden-gem charms of their home town's Melrose Arch to the many pleasures of Cape Town. Midfielder Miguel Timm feels an especially strong connection to Cape Town: it’s the “birthplace of my wife”, but he also loves the city “because of the good weather and the beach”. It's also his "favourite city to play an away game because of the amazing fans we have there.”

For Phillip and Tshegofatso, the best away game atmosphere just has to be Polokwane. And goalkeeper Richard Ofori adds another South Africa favourite: “Durban, because of the beach and the weather. I love going there.” Miguel is also a big fan of another South African city:

My favourite holiday destination ever would be George, so far – it’s very tranquil – and obviously there’s the ocean as well.

Going further afield, the players have some favourites, plus a few they’ve yet to visit. For both Tshegofatso and Phillip, the perfect holiday spot is Spain, with Tshegofatso opting for sophisticated capital Madrid, and Phillip choosing the coastal flavours of Andalusia’s Marbella. No doubt Tshegofatso and Phillip will be hoping to spend some time in these two destinations when the team heads to Spain for their off-season training camp!

For Richard, the Ghanaian player, and the only one of the four not to hail from South Africa, “I love going” to France, “because I have so many friends around there.” Another Francophile is Phillip, who chooses the delights of Paris as number one on his wish list.

Tshegofatso has clearly been scrolling through images of idyllic isles in search of great hotels;

My bucket-list destination? Definitely Maldives!

The islands in Greece, too, seem to have caught Miguel’s eye – Mykonos is his wish-list destination, thanks to its “good vibes, good weather and good food.”

Travel is a major part of a professional football player’s life, of course, but on a personal level, it means a lot, conjuring up different things for each of them. According to Phillip:

Travel for me in one word is – exploring.

For Tshegofatso, that word is “adventures”. Miguel has another take on things, relishing travel as a way to remove him from the usual routine.

Travel to me means relaxation, taking time away from the thing I do every day, which is football.

What makes you happy when staying at a hotel?

Orlando Pirates themed hotel room, Marriott

A good hotel is important for any sports team as it ensures adequate rest, reduces stress, and helps maintain focus and overall well-being (Photo: Marriott International) 

Like most of us, the players enjoy accommodation with great design and comfortable beds – perfect for jumping on, according to Tshegofatso! Miguel says, “I look for a big size room for my family, good views and a nice swimming pool”, while for Tshegofatso “the aesthetics” are more important when choosing a hotel. On that note, fans of the team should definitely check out the Orlando Pirates F.C.-themed rooms at Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Johannesburg Melrose Arch.

For Miguel, “The first thing I do when I enter a hotel room is drop my bags, take a shower and freshen up” – grooming is important to all four, and Phillip and Tshegofatso say their travel toiletry bag is an especially valued travel item. For Richard, the view is fundamental to having a good stay.

Richard explains that late check-outs – just one of the perks of being a Marriott Bonoy member – make him happy, too, because he needs his sleep, and Miguel concurs. A theme with all the players, not surprisingly given their lengthy football seasons and intensive training schedules, is the importance of proper rest.

Great food to keep them nourished is similarly vital. Miguel’s preference is ”access to a full buffet in a restaurant, because of the variety of different foods available and to cater for all my nutritional needs.” He also loves restaurant dining rather than room service, “just because of the vibe that it comes with” and the “conversations you have at dinner.”

Phillip too, likes to “interact with people” at the breakfast buffet, rather than opting for breakfast in bed, which is Tshegofatso’s choice – an “English breakfast” with eggs “sunny side up”. It couldn’t be further from Richard’s routine. “I’m not a breakfast person,” he admits. “When I travel, I don’t eat breakfast,” preferring to prioritise sleep over an early start.

What do you like to eat, whether at home or while travelling?

Nutritious vegetable curry

For the Orlando Pirates, getting the right diet is vital, helping to enhance performance, boost energy levels and aid in recovery (Photo: Getty Images)

The bonhomie of sharing a table with family and friends is key to enjoyment when it comes to dinner, and all four players have their favourite meal – whether it be a home-cooked South African dish, or something from a fine dining restaurant.

My favourite dish would be matan curry to be exact, with roti – and it’s part of the stuff I grew up with because of my parents.

According to Miguel, it’s the taste of childhood that’s stayed with him, while Tshegofatso and Phillip don’t hesitate when asked what their all-time favourite dish is – “Pasta!” – and, it seems, they don’t mind what form it comes in.

Richard’s a fan of jollof rice too – “I love it because it’s easy to prepare”. His absolute favourite South African delight is “chakalaka” – an aromatic dish of gently stewed beans and vegetables, flavoured with curry and spices – “and pap”, the maize meal. He comments that pap is “similar to food in my country” – referring to Ghana’s banku, which uses fermented corn or cassava. Tshegofatso loves pap too, usually with a portion of barbecued meat.

For Phillip, tripe, or cow’s intestines, are traditional and "what we eat more as South Africans”. Miguel is keen on braai – usually the local sausage, boerewors “cooked over a period of time over charcoal or burnt wood” which “gives it a lot of flavour.” And, while that’s going on, “it’s also time to enjoy yourself with friends and family.”

How do you keep fit and healthy as a professional athlete?

Miguel Timm, Orlando Pirates midfielder

Miguel Timm, Orlando Pirates midfielder (Photo: Marriott International)

The players take care to keep up some sort of fitness regime when they’re away, whether that’s swimming in an outdoor pool or getting to a gym. “When I travel, the least I can do is go into the gym”, says Phillip, while Miguel admits to “not too much training” but obviously seeking out “the closest gym in a Marriott hotel.” Richard agrees:

When I travel, I look for the closest gym – and I love running by the beach.

Tshegofatso says he will also “maybe go for a jog” but it’s clear that for all of them, holidays also equal rest. They all freely admit to using the hotel lift to conserve energy – all except Phillip, who says he takes the stairs “sometimes”, before smiling broadly. It’s no surprise that ‘The Happy People’ is another nickname for this team and its supporters.

When it comes to overcoming jet lag, all have their favoured methods. Phillip swears by inflatable, compression boots, while Richard adds ice to the mix. Miguel, quite simply, thinks “a lot of sleep” is the answer. There might be something in what Tshegofatso has to say, too:

To overcome jet lag, I think a nice bath will do.

Can you tell us about who you travel with?

Orlando Pirates players Philip Ndlondlo, Richard Ofori, Tshegofatso Mabasa and Miguel Timm

Orlando Pirates players Philip Ndlondlo, Richard Ofori, Tshegofatso Mabasa and Miguel Timm, from left to right (Photo: Marriott International) 

For all the players, their preferred travel companions are their nearest and dearest – which, for some, includes their teammates. Philip’s chosen companions, though, “would definitely be my family” and Tshegofatso concurs – “definitely family.” Richard says, “I normally travel with my younger brother because he’s amazing and I love spending time with him.” For Miguel, too, the answer to his favourite travel companions comes without hesitation:

That would be my wife and my daughter – we always travel together. We are clan like that.

“When you see me”, he continues, “you will always see them on holiday too” – probably enjoying some French toast for breakfast, or his favourite: flapjacks, bacon and maple syrup. It must always be accompanied by an excellent cup of coffee.

From the unique The Luxury Collection to the lively Moxy Hotels, watch as the football stars discover their perfect hotel brand match with a Marriott Bonvoy Travel Trivia.

Published: June 03, 2024

Last Updated: June 21, 2024

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