Finding Teko

2011-01-29 00:00

IT’S been such an abysmal few years for Teko Modise that it’s almost hard to remember the formative years when he burst on to the scene as an explosive right winger at SuperSport United in 2006.

Modise was already 24 when he made his breakthrough into top-flight South African football. It seems just too advanced an age for such a prodigious talent to have been noticed and promoted from the lower leagues, yet suddenly here was the bright hope South Africa had been searching for to inspire the team from midfield at the World Cup, then just four years away.

To some extent the nation owes Modise an apology. The expectation that was heaped on the player’s shoulders over those four years has almost destroyed a gifted midfielder.

In his first season at Orlando Pirates in 2007/08 Modise was switched to playmaker with great effect by DR Congo coach Bibey Mutombo and his successor, Owen Da Gama. Under Dutchman Ruud Krol, Modise, like right-footed Bafana Bafana team-mate Steven Pienaar at Everton, played on the left.

During this period the player won the PSL’s footballer of the year award in 2008 and, somewhat controversially, 2009, and amassed 57 caps for Bafana. For the first four years of his career Modise was barely ever injured and played a lot of games. Despite his good fitness levels, though, he is a slender player and small in stature. Combined with the expectation, perhaps it was all just a recipe for a breakdown, which is the point Modise’s career has essentially reached this season.

At the 2009 Confederations Cup Modise already looked jaded and his body language suggested he certainly wasn’t enjoying all the hype and attention. The Pirates player seemed desperate to be regarded as just an ordinary member of the team, and allowed to play his football without having every turn, pass and shot at goal heavily scrutinised.

Modise had been a key player in Krol’s side that pushed SuperSport hard for the title in 2009. In 2010, in the build-up to the World Cup, his declining form saw the midfielder increasingly marginalised at Pirates, and it seemed South Africa’s one-time golden boy had lost his lustre to such an extent that he might not even make Carlos Alberto Parreira’s squad.

The Brazilian had been a great admirer of Modise’s from Parreira’s first stint in charge of Bafana, when “The General” was a match-winner with his incisive passing and ability to score from range or free-kicks. Even then, though, there had been doubts about Modise’s ability against top-class opposition because he seemed only to dazzle against the lesser teams. Modise showed enough signs of form after being nursed to fitness in training camps to be included in the final World Cup 24.

The tournament, though, was a disaster for the midfielder. Modise had an average opener against Mexico where he showed some class touches and got into a scoring position twice, but missed both sitters and gave away possession too often.

He was hopelessly exposed against the physical Uruguayans and tragically booed when he replaced Thanduyise Khuboni in the 78th minute against France.

The booing has continued at Pirates this season as a player with his confidence shattered looked a shade of his former self.

Modise made some half-decent comeback games around Christmas, but has since been benched by Krol. Eventually something had to give. The media have reported that the midfielder missed training at Pirates because his house was broken into.

The disciplinary hearing the player was to face appears to have been the final straw and this week’ move to Mamelodi Sundowns is aimed at getting Modise’s career back on track.

It could be a good move. There is less pressure from the supporters at Downs than at Pirates or Kaizer Chiefs. But Sundowns are still a top three side, the richest club in the country and a team worthy of Modise’s star quality.

Like anyone joining the Brazilians, Modise has plenty of competition to get into Downs’ first team. Whether he plays in the most likely position of left midfield or playmaker, there is Papi Zothwane, Surprise Moriri, Franklin Cale, Lebohang Mokoena and former PSL player of the season Elias Pelembe to compete against.

But competition promotes performance and Modise certainly has the class to make it.

There is a perception of Modise as arrogant or overly confident. It’s not true. He is one of the Bafana players who will always make time to speak to the press for any length of time. Throughout his career he has answered tough questions honestly, sincerely and with humility. He has also allowed his image to publicise the fight against HIV and Aids.

In a two- or three-year period at the start of his career this gifted midfielder thrilled South Africans with skills that made him one of those special players, a cut above the rest.

It would be a tragedy if that was the best we have seen of Teko Modise. One can only hope the move to Sundowns brings back the Teko of old.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.