Portia Modise is a remarkable player by any measure - the first African player to reach the elusive 100-goal barrier in international football and only 14th player ever to score a milestone 100 goals for her country. If you read the list of the other women who have achieved this it’s a who’s who of women’s football heros. She is indeed in rare company.
Portia is also one of only two African footballers, alongside Perpetua Nkwocha, to be nominated for the Women’s FIFA World Player of the Year (2005). Her 100 goals in 117 games puts her third in terms of her goals-per-game ratio of players who have netted over 100 goals for their country: her 0.85 goals/game only puts her behind the retired duo of Julie Fleeting and Elisabetta Vignotto, who have an impressive 0.97 goal/game average. The amazing thing is, she is still going strong and some would say stronger than before!
Watching her pace and command of the ball, an ever present danger for the goalkeeper, she is definitely a player to watch - which, considering she walked away from international football in 2008 is something. What makes the story even better is that she was ‘re-discovered’ by current coach Vera Pauw playing for a men’s regional team! Her ascent has been swift and she hasn’t looked back since 2014.
Talking with her, she is very modest about what she has achieved and very, very humble. She makes it clear from the start “...this is for (sic) the contribution of my team mates because I wasn’t going to do it on my own so it was team work,” she says of her achievement. This only serves to endear her to the team more and make her a more likeable person. She knows what she has achieved and is as pleased as anyone to be in such rare company - but for Portia it’s about the team and this keeps her grounded. If you didn’t know her achievements and you met her you would never know - she isn’t going to talk about them and she doesn’t wear them on her sleeve as some can.
Having said that, she is equally blasé about scoring goals. “If the opportunity comes to take it I do,” she says of opportunities and scoring goals. But she goes on to explain that she isn’t chasing goals and if it means setting up a goal for a team mate then of course, because for her it’s not about scoring goals, it’s about a desire to win.
When I ask her what is she going to set her sights on next, she doesn’t hesitate and says, “... for the love of God to score another 100!” She laughs and then says “150, this is my goal, to get to 150 goals scored for South Africa”. Under the laughter and smiles there is a determination that I think will see her get those goals.
I look forward with interest to seeing how Portia’s next phase unfolds because she has all the ingredients to be a record breaking footballer who is humble, grounded and talks of team first.