- South Africa's Portia Modise ‘speechless’ to be in such company in the 100 goal club
- Modise wants to empower South African women and encourage football growth
- Legendary striker hopes World Cup debut will have big impact on football at home
When Alex Morgan scored her 100th goal for USA last week against Australia, she joined an illustrious list of players to reach the milestone. Christine Sinclair, Abby Wambach and Birgit Prinz are all names on that list – as is South Africa’s record goalscorer and FIFA Legends Squad Member, Portia Modise.
To score 100 goals for club or country is a magnificent achievement, but for Modise, who was one of three children raised by her disabled mother in Soweto, the challenges of trying to make it as a footballer make the feat all the more special.
“My background made it very difficult to achieve what I have, but the coaches I had saw something in me and invested the time needed,” she said.
“They were like a father figure, they made sure I went to school and that I was okay. I lived in a shack, I sacrificed a lot and I don’t want other young girls to experience what I did.”
Those sacrifices may not have brought much financial reward for Modise, but her hard work and passion for the game would see her become one of Africa’s most successful players – even if it did not come with the recognition that it perhaps deserved.
After linking with Denmark’s Fortuna Hjorring, Modise represented her country at the London 2012 Olympics. It was there that she scored the goal of the tournament in a 4-1 defeat against Sweden with a strike from the halfway line.
But it was in October 2014 that Modise’s name was up in lights, when she became the first African to score 100 international goals. She ultimately finished her career with 101 goals from 124 appearances.
“I was in Namibia in 2014 at the African Cup of Nations and I remember I got a pass from a team-mate, took everyone on, but decided to pass rather than score.
“For the love of god I got another opportunity where I was up against a defender and the goalkeeper. Thankfully, I managed to score and get my 100th goal, which was a brilliant moment.
“I always say I am speechless to be amongst so many great players with 100 goals because my background is so different – I am so honoured.”
Despite all of her achievements, there is one regret for Modise, and that is not being able to share the field with Marta.
While Modise doesn’t claim to be at the level as the six-time FIFA World Player of the Year, she does feel their playing styles are similar, and she would love to have tested herself against one of the all-time greats.
“She is a special player, I wanted to be her and I wanted to compete against her.
“I love that she wants to leave a legacy in the women’s game and when we talked about brilliant players when I was playing, we spoke about Marta and Mia Hamm.”
While Modise never had the chance to play against Marta, she does want to leave a legacy similar to hers by continuing to champion for women’s football in South Africa.
The launch of a new professional league this year, she hopes, will help Banyana Banyana’s long term future. But she also believes the team's debut at France 2019 will be a game-changer for women’s football in South Africa – she just wishes she could be part of it on the field.
“The new league is very important because it’s the day we have been waiting for for a long time," says Modise.
“The World Cup is important too and I cannot wait, I am already excited and I wish I could get my soccer boots and take to the field.
“This is going to bring change for a lot of young women and open a platform for girls who didn’t know where to go. I think things will slowly change.”