Former Banyana Banyana captain Portia Modise has been appointed by Fifa as one of the global game body’s 13 ambassadors for Fifa Women’s World Cup.
The retired striker’s appointment coincided with the SA senior women national team’s exploits at the just-concluded Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, where Banyana qualified for their maiden World Cup by virtue of reaching the final of the continental championships in Ghana.
South Africa finished as runners-up to Nigeria.
Now Modise – Banyana’s all-time leading scorer with 101 goals – has been bestowed an honour similar to those of the likes of Brazil great Ronaldo, French icon Zinedine Zidane, former England captain David Beckham and Argentina legend Diego Maradona, all retired stars with ambassadorial roles in Fifa.
The retired striker from Soweto will officially begin her role on Saturday when she, alongside other women’s football icons, help conduct the draw of next year’s Women’s World Cup in France.
“Fifa contacted me last month already to become their ambassador. It is 13 of us and I am the only one from Africa,” Modise told City Press.
She will be jetting off to France on Wednesday to be at the draw on Saturday.
“It’s a huge honour to be recognised by Fifa and it’s even sweeter that Banyana have qualified for the World Cup. This will give me joy while standing on the stage conducting the draw in which my country will be part of,” said the 2005 Fifa World the Year nominee.
“I have always been praying for Banyana to qualify for the World Cup since my playing days. I am privileged that I am part of this historic moment for SA women’s football.”
Modise, who retired in 2015 after 124 games in a national team career spanning 15 years, also registered her satisfaction at how the team has evolved recently.
“I am happy with the team’s playing style as it reflects the same kind of football that we used to play, even when coach Desiree Ellis was still a player,” said the player affectionately known as Bashin.
Modise also lauded Banyana’s longtime sponsor Sasol for backing the team but she pleaded for other corporate companies to invest in the national team.
“For us to do well at the World Cup, Banyana need serious warm-up matches against opposition of high international standards. We have played against African opposition at the Afcon. Now we need games against teams from Europe, Asia or South America.
“The timing is good to make the professional league happen. The girls showed they deserve it. They have only tasted a professional set-up when they go to national team camps. Sasol has done a good job but to be fair to the, they can’t do it alone; they need a helping hand.”
Reflecting on her career, Modise said she was glad her outspokenness on some of the issues affecting women’s football has somehow contributed in the advancement of the game.
“Remember, during our time, there was very little money and lots of empty promises but some of us raised these issues without fear. We shall keep on fighting until we break the chain.”
Modise has been bidding her time at home when the Fifa came calling. She had been coaching a club in Pretoria before then.