Newsmaker – Portia Modise: South Africa's 100- goal heroine

2014-10-27 08:00

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‘I’m a young legend!” That’s how Portia Modise described herself this week after becoming the first African player to score a century of goals.

“Thank you, South Africa,” she said to City Press from Namibia this week, adding that she was overwhelmed by messages of support from home and the good wishes pouring on to her Facebook page.

Born and bred in Soweto, Modise has always been destined for greater things. She was the youngest player to represent Banyana Banyana when she was 17 and, since her first call-up, she has never looked back.

The 31-year-old striker, who made her name at the Soweto Ladies in the late 1990s, has often carried Banyana’s hopes on her broad shoulders and it is a responsibility she has revelled in.

It was evident how cherished she was by her team-mates when they were more excited about her 100th international goal than she was during South Africa’s 5-1 drubbing of Algeria en route to the African Women’s Championship semifinals.

Last Saturday, she joined the exclusive 100 club after scoring her 99th and 100th goals in her 117th appearance for the national team.

There are only about five other women players in the world who have better figures.

Modise scored her first goal for South Africa in the 2000 African Women’s Championships against Zimbabwe and her 100th at the same tournament.

She started her career at a time when women’s football was associated with “tomboys”.

The sport’s detractors didn’t bother her.

“If I am a tomboy, I am and that has nothing to do with my football life. That’s my personal life because that’s how I chose to live and as long as I am happy, I am okay with that.”

She said she realised she had something special when boys would queue at her home asking her to come and play with them.

“Playing with boys made me strong and gave me an appreciation for the gift that God gave me.

“It wasn’t easy, as I had to put in more effort to compete with them, but that helped mould my game better,” said Modise.

But her journey has been a roller coaster.

“It has not been an easy road for me as there were ups and downs,” she said, referring to her fallout with former coach Augustine Makalakalane.

She actually quit the national team in 2008 because she refused to play under Makalakalane, whom she accused of being a homophobe.

She returned to Banyana in 2012.

“I was determined not to let anyone stop me from doing what I love. I’m happy I am enjoying my football again, but it is down to hard work and dedication.”

She said it never dawned on her that one day she would top the African scoring charts.

“I am really just doing my job by scoring goals. But it is still great to have achieved 100 and it is an honour to be the first African.

“I think it also shows that nothing is impossible in football. I think proving this is a great achievement.

I never thought I’d achieve it one day after my upside down with the team.

“But my friends and family kept me going, and I never lost hope because I love what I’m doing. People enjoy seeing me play and that really kept me going as I didn’t want to let them down,” she said.

To call Modise the face of women’s football in South Africa would be an understatement. In her time with Banyana, there’s been a rise in opportunities and recognition for female footballers.

Now that she has hit the 100 mark, Modise has another goal: “I have achieved so much, but my immediate dream is to win the best African female player. I would feel like I’ve fulfilled my dream as it won’t compare with anything else.”

Her fans will be pleased to know she’s not even thinking of retiring – and even when she does leave the field, she plans to stay involved in the game.

“As long as my body can still carry me, I will continue playing. But beyond my playing days, I would like to still be involved in football to help youngsters to follow their dreams.

“I want to give back to my people after the support they have given me throughout my career.”

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