South African female football star Portia Modise made waves in October when she became the first African player in history to score 100 international goals. She has also recently become the first woman to win South Africa Sports Star of the Year, and has become a leader and inspiration for female athletes around the world. Here are 12 things you didn’t about Portia Modise.
Sources: CityPress.co.za, Kickoff.com, Expagency.co.za, BBC.com, AfricaTopSports.com, WhosWho.co.za
Born and raised in Soweto, South Africa, Modise chose football at a young age over the more popular girls’ choice of netball. She grew up playing football with the boys in her neighborhood in the street, and began playing with the Soweto Rangers at the under-10 level.
She played football from a young age, so it was important that Modise’s family supported her passion, which they did wholeheartedly. In an interview with TheGrindPR, she said, “My family didn’t have a problem with (playing football); they said if it makes me happy then it is fine with them. They supported me financially and bought me kit and soccer boots.”
Named after footballer Albert “Bashin” Mahlangu, Modise was also nicknamed “Bashin” for her scoring prowess on the field. She is comfortable, and extremely prolific, at both the midfielder or forward role.
In 2007, Modise signed a two-year deal to play for Denmark’s Fortuna Hjørring in the Elitedivisionen, before returning to South Africa in 2009 to play for the Palace Super Falcons. With regard to her international experience, she said, “It was a life changing experience and it forced me to mature at a young age. It was not easy to be away from home but I worked hard. I learnt a lot from my teammates. That experience taught me a lot of life lessons.”
Citing a breakdown in her relationship with coach August Makalakalane, Modise announced she would no longer play for the South Africa women’s national team in November 2008. After Makalakalane was sacked amid allegations of sexual harassment and homophobia, Modise rejoined the team in April 2012 under the new coach, Joseph Mkhonza.
In March 2005, the head of the women’s committee of the South African Football Association (SAFA), announced that female players would be sent to etiquette workshops and wear tighter uniforms to “increase their femininity.” Modise spoke out against this saying, “We need sponsors but all the committee does is raise less important issues because they have failed to transform the sport.”
Though she declined to speak about her sexual orientation earlier in her career, Modise was later featured in a 2011 documentary that explored the dangers lesbians faced in South Africa. Modise spoke about the worries she lived with on a daily basis, such as “corrective rape” or murder, and confessed she would not go out alone at night.
As a part of the South African team, Modise traveled to London in 2012 for the Summer Olympic Games with 71 goals and 92 international caps already under her belt. Among her contributions, she scored a “stunning” goal from inside the center circle in her team’s 4-1 loss to Sweden that was cheered by South African and Swedish fans alike.
In October 2014, Modise became the first African player, man or woman, to reach 100 goals in international football. She scored both her 99th and 100th goal in South Africa’s 5-1 victory against Algeria in the CAF African Women’s Championship. She credited her teammates for her success, “I am honored to score 100 goals. Without my Banyana Banyana teammates, I would not have been able to score these goals. So it’s for all of the team and the support I got from them and the technical team. So yes, it’s not only for me, but for the whole team.”
After playing for several different coaches with the South Africa women’s national team, Vera Pauw took over as coach. In an interview, Modise said, “I enjoy playing under Coach Vera. She is open about many things and treats us like professionals. She is a mother to us, it helps to have a female coach as she understands the challenges of being a woman.”
After becoming the first woman to receive the South African Sports Star of the Year Award, Modise recognizes the important role it will play for future female athletes, “This is the beginning for other women to receive this award. My winning has opened doors for other players to get more recognition.” Modise won the 2014 award over several other high-profile nominees, including wheelchair racer Ernst van Dyk, swimmer Chad le Clos, long jumper Khotso Mokoene, cricketer AB de Villiers, and rugby player Duane Vermeulen.
Modise worked briefly as a coach for the Orlando Pirates academy in 2005-2006, but left after seven months due to a disagreement with her boss, Augusto Palacios. She still has plans to coach in the future. “Football has brought so much to my life and I want to give back to the youngsters out there,” she said.
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