Teko Modise, one of the brightest stars in the South African side of late, has delivered a stern warning, asserting that doubters write South Africa off at their own peril. The FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009, which kicks off with an opening game between hosts South Africa and Asian Champions Iraq on Sunday at Ellis Park, will be the biggest moment in the dribbling wizard's footballing career to date. More than 40 million South Africans will be expecting victory as their nation seeks a bright start to the tournament.
Following a flawless season in South Africa in which he walked away with both the Footballer of the Year title and the Player's Player of the Season award, much is expected of Modise. However, the ‘General' does not put undue pressure on himself.
"I remember the first day I put on the national team jersey, there were expectations. But at that time, people didn't know who Teko Modise was. The Confederations Cup is my first big tournament. I'm not sure what to expect, but I want to go out there and enjoy my football," Modise told FIFA.com.
While some have been quick to dismiss South Africa's prospects of triumph in the FIFA Confederations Cup, Modise insists that home support and a recognition of the impact of victory will be factors in their favor.
"Its important for us to do well, we cannot be written off. I know we are playing against some big names, but in football, we all have 90 minutes. In that 90 minutes, anything can happen," he said.
An individual gifted with skill, creativity and a knack for scoring beautiful goals, Modise is the man upon whom many of South Africa's hopes have been pinned. He, together with midfield maestro Steven Pienaar, will be operating South Africa's engine room during the tournament.
The duo are likely to provide headache in ample quantities to opponents. Both are talented, both have big hearts and most importantly, both share the desire to help South Africa spin the wheel of fortune in their favour. Few South African players have garnered as much praise as Modise and Pienaar.
In the past, South Africans had looked-up to star players like Lucas Radebe, Doctor Khumalo and Benni McCarthy. With Radebe and Khumalo retired, the younger generation, under the mentorship of Joel Santana, hopes to re-write the history books as South Africa play tournament hosts for the rest of the month. Some have questioned whether Modise and Pienaar can play together effectively in the midfield because of their similarities in style, but Modise is quick to weigh in on the subject.
"Steven is a good player, he is a good friend of mine. We don't play for ourselves, we play for South Africa. For us, personal glory comes last. The most important thing now is to help South Africa proceed to the semi-finals of the tournament, we will take it from there," he told FIFA.com.
Modise has laboured hard and beaten the odds. Despite being overlooked by Johannesburg teams, he travelled to remote areas of the country to nurture his talent away from the cameras. But one performance in particular changed his life.
He turned heads when his side City Pillars played South African glamour boys Kaizer Chiefs in a tournament pitting semi-professional teams against professional sides. Within a matter of weeks, he was acquired by South African champions, SuperSport United. After one season, he was then lured to one of South Africa's biggest clubs, Orlando Pirates, where his career truly began to flourish.