FT African Legends Series: The ultimate "markswoman", Portia Modise

As we draw closer towards the much anticipated 2018 Women's Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Ghana from the 17th of November to 1st of December, we celebrate some great legends of the game on the continent.

While the men’s South African team has been struggling to score goals. The women’s team, Banyana Banyana had a gem who used to score goals for fun in Portia Modise. Below we profile this unsung hero who knew what it meant to be a striker during her playing days.

blog, football, feature, Portia Modise, Arsenal Women’s team, Banyana Banyana, AWC,SAFA, CAF, Mali, Soweto, London Olympics

blog, football, feature, Portia Modise, Arsenal Women’s team, Banyana Banyana, AWC,SAFA, CAF, Mali, Soweto, London Olympics

Background

Nicknamed “Bashin” after the football great Alfred “Bashin” Mahlangu, Portia was born in June 1983 in the famous township of Soweto in South Africa.

Contribution to the game

With a scoring prowess which was second to none, Portia Modise became the first African (amongst both men and women) to amass more than 100 international goals. Yes you read that right. She scored 102 goals in 119 appearances for Banyana Banyana in an unbelievable career which was filled with various accolades and achievements. Modise was named Player of the tournament at the Women African Championships held in 2006 for her stellar performances even though Banyana Banyana could only finish as first runner-ups. Moreover, “Bashin” was also part of the Banyana Banyana squad which represented South Africa at the 2012 London Olympic games.

Club Career

Professionally, Portia played for various South Africa teams including Soweto Ladies F.C where she scored 51 goals for the club . She also played for teams like Falcons F.C, and Croesus Ladies which were locally based teams. In 2007, Modise received an opportunity to play in Europe. She signed a two-year deal to play in Denmark for premier league team Fortuna Hjorring, before she returned to South Africa in 2009 to play for the Palace Super Falcons. Also worth noting is that back in 2003, Modise almost played for the Arsenal women’s football team, once upon a time in her glorious career. However, the move failed to materialize mainly due to finance and sponsorship details, despite Modise impressing the then Arsenal coach.

With a scoring prowess which was second to none, “Bashin” became the first African (yes you read that right) to amass more than 100 international goals in 124 appearances. Such a record epitomized the true legend that she was in a male-dominated sport like football.
— Siphosethu Thwala, FirstTouch Africa

International Career

Portia’s glimmering career was earmarked mainly by her amazing exploits at national team level. She began playing for Banyana Banyana back in 2000 aged 16. While playing for Banyana Banyana, she was instrumental in helping the team qualify for the 2008 African Women's Championship held in Equatorial Guinea. She also helped the team qualify for the 2012 London Olympic games where she scored the team’s only goal during the whole tournament. With a scoring prowess which was second to none, “Bashin” became the first African (yes you read that right) to amass more than 100 international goals in 124 appearances. Such a record epitomized the true legend that she was in a male-dominated sport like football. She finally hung her boots in 2015 after an illustrious career.

Career Accolades and Achievements

Portia Modise of South Africa celebrates scoring during the Women's Football first round Group F Match of the London 2012 Olympic Games between Sweden and South Africa, at City of Coventry Stadium on July 25, 2012 in Coventry, England.  (July 24, 2012 - Source: Sindy Thomas/Getty Images Europe) 

Portia Modise of South Africa celebrates scoring during the Women's Football first round Group F Match of the London 2012 Olympic Games between Sweden and South Africa, at City of Coventry Stadium on July 25, 2012 in Coventry, England.

(July 24, 2012 - Source: Sindy Thomas/Getty Images Europe) 

Portia’s amazing career was nothing short of achievements to back up her legendary status. For instance, Modise was nominated for the Women's FIFA World Player of the Year award back in 2005. She was also nominated for the 2006 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Women's Football of the Year award. Furthermore, Modise won the 2006 player of the year championship at the Women’s African Football Championship. She also went on to win the much coveted South African Sports Star award in the year 2014. What’s more, to close off a wonderful footballing career, “Bashin” was honoured by the South African Football Association (SAFA) after scoring her 100th goal for Banyana Banyana in the African Women’s Championship (AWC) in Namibia, 2014.

Women’s football still lags behind in coverage both in Africa and internationally, however those who did get the opportunity to see Modise in action will know that she had skill and inherent talent beyond that of many of her male counterparts. Not many have been able to mimic nor reach the class exuded by Portia Modise during her days. Nonetheless, the upcoming Women’s AFCON provides the appropriate platform for Africa and the rest of the world to see new talent that can take Women’s football by storm and reach the level  of Portia Modise. Will we see more of the Portia Modise, or was she one of a kind? You make the call.