I got ab­so­lutely noth­ing from foot­ball

Soccer Laduma - - Make Your Point -

All Por­tia Modise dreamed of as a kid was to be­come a pro­fes­sional foot­baller who would travel the world on na­tional duty, drive a car of her choice, stay in a de­cent house and im­prove the lives of her fam­ily. She did be­come a Banyana Banyana player, a leg­endary one at that, adored for her goalscor­ing ex­ploits, but all else re­mained a pipedream up un­til the day she de­cided she had had enough in 2015. It’s an in­cred­i­bly sad sto­ryy of giv­inggg one’s all to the cause of a na­tion, only to walk away empty-handed, lit­er­ally and oth­er­wise. A mis­er­able yet out­spo­ken Modise had a con­ver­sa­tion with Soc­cer Lad­uma’s Beaver Nazo, and it’s the stuff of tell-all books!

Beaver Nazo: Bashin, what are you up to these days now that you have re­tired?

Por­tia Modise: Hey, Beaver, right now I have a pro­ject that I’m busy with and I’m also do­ing a bit of coach­ing. Noth­ing much for now, mfethu (my brother) – I’m still hus­tling for the job.

BN: On 19 May 2015, you an­nounced your re­tire­ment from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball, hav­ing played 124 matches and scored 101 goals for South Africa. Many felt you should have car­ried on though.

PM: I guess that was the case, but some­times we get prob­lems along the way. There are cir­cum­stances that led to my re­tire­ment. My re­tire­ment was pre­ma­ture, but I had to stop play­ing be­cause I was get­ting old and I have am­bi­tions. I am a bread­win­ner at home and there was so lit­tle that I could do with the lit­tle in­cen­tive that we were get­ting. I couldn’t make a liv­ing out of that, be­ing paid af­ter three months and all that. So I de­cided to stop and pur­sue other op­tions so that I could be able to put bread on the ta­ble. When you look at ama­jita (guys) that are play­ing foot­ball, when they are done train­ing, they get to their cars and go home. They have fam­i­lies. They have kids. I mean, nathi (we) as girls also want that life. We also have those am­bi­tions and that is why we chose a foot­ball ca­reer. But we can’t have that life be­cause we are not treated with the same re­spect. It is a sad story… uthol’ ukuthi (you find that) some of the girls who were play­ing for Banyana Banyana are now work­ing as cashiers at Sho­prite and oth­ers are taxi driv­ers try­ing to make a liv­ing. Hope­fully things will change for women’s foot­ball in fu­ture be­cause, as things stand now, it is bad.

BN: You’re paint­ing a grim pic­ture.

PM: Hey, Beaver, ud­lala ngami wena (you’re play­ing with me). That is why I’m say­ing we also wish to have houses and cars, but not with what we were given as salaries. I felt that if I can score 100 goals, then I should be treated with re­spect and earn a liv­ing from that. Foot­ball is more like a busi­ness nowa­days and foot­ballers earn enough to make a liv­ing out of it. I was stay­ing in a shack and when I won the SA Sports Star of the Year award I couldn’t leave home and buy a house be­cause I was a bread­win­ner, so I de­cided to build my home and I used all that money for that pur­pose. I still have a dream of buy­ing my­self a house, but where will I ever get that kind of money from? I mean, for some­one my age, who

is a cel­e­brated star and an all-time lead­ing goalscorer for Banyana, I should have my house and a car, but I don’t. I stay at home be­cause I don’t have money. It’s sad, re­ally sad…

BN: Is that why you were not ex­cited to get a framed jer­sey on the oc­ca­sion of your 100th cap for Banyana?

PM: At the end of the day, you know that it’s not some­thing that comes from deep in their hearts, hon­our­ing me and be­liev­ing that I am an icon. They just do it for peo­ple to see them as peo­ple who ap­pre­ci­ate me when they ac­tu­ally don’t. If I were that im­por­tant ,I wouldn’t have been strug­gling to buy bread. When Danny Jordaan said I was their Pele, he just said that so that peo­ple would think that they re­ally take care of me. When you say I’m a Pele and Pele is taken care of in Brazil, while I am even strug­gling to buy bread, then that is some­thing else.

BN: Food for thought, ex­cuse the pun.

PM: You can­not be happy for a framed jer­sey that will stay on the wall of a shack; that is why I was not ex­cited for it. Think about it… what will a framed jer­sey do for me?

BN: In Novem­ber 2008, you an­nounced that you would no longer play for South Africa, af­ter a break­down in your work­ing re­la­tion­ship with coach Au­gus­tine Makalakalane. What hap­pened?

PM: I don’t want to go back there, mara ngiyak­wazi uzobuya ung’buze

futhi ngenye in­dlela (but I know you will ask me again in a dif­fer­ent way). No, it was just that we didn’t see eyeto-eye and you know we were raised in dif­fer­ent ways – how you do things might not be the same as how I do things. When we are in camp, we are adults and just be­cause I’m a woman doesn’t mean that I can­not have my say or I don’t un­der­stand why I got the call-up. I play with leg­ends and they some­times share their sto­ries on how they used to stand up for them­selves. The way we were treated was like we were just chil­dren and when you talk you are not go­ing to be called up to the Banyana be­cause they will say you are a trou­ble­maker. When I voiced out the fact that we were not paid and we were only get­ting R400 al­lowance, they said I was a trou­ble­maker. Yini into e right ekumele ngi

yenze (What is the right thing I’m sup­posed to do)? I felt that they think ukuthi they are do­ing us a favour by se­lect­ing us for Banyana. There is no progress. I’m sure you can also see that there is no progress, no change. Imag­ine, we are wear­ing the same jer­sey that Bafana are wear­ing and we sing the same na­tional an­them be­fore games, yet we get paid R400. They don’t see us de­serv­ing of any­thing, no mat­ter what we can win, be­cause we are women. There are peo­ple who quit school be­cause they wanted to pur­sue a dream of play­ing for Banyana, yet you get there and you’re not even earn­ing R1 000.

BN: Hope­fully, things will change for the bet­ter. As SAFA Vice-Pres­i­dent Ria Led­waba men­tioned in her in­ter­view in Soc­cer Lad­uma is­sue 1094, there is a women’s pro­fes­sional league mooted for 2019.

PM: How are they go­ing to gen­er­ate money to pay the play­ers that will be play­ing in the league? How much will the play­ers earn? How much are the best play­ers in the league go­ing to earn – R5 000 or R3 500? I am re­ally wor­ried be­cause they are go­ing to say, “No, we are start­ing small.” I so wish one day they could just leave the gen­der alone and look at us and look at what we are do­ing and re­spect us. Why can’t we be treated the same? That is why I have my doubts about this women’s pro­fes­sional league. The way I see it, noth­ing will hap­pen. For any­thing to hap­pen in that league, men have to help the league be­cause they al­ready have the ball in their hand. Teams like Or­lando Pi­rates, Kaizer Chiefs and oth­ers have to adopt these women’s teams. It will never be easy for these ladies’ teams to even get sup­port be­cause some of them are not even play­ing for Banyana, so they are un­known. Now, tell me, who is go­ing to watch their games? Who is go­ing to pay R40 for a ticket to watch peo­ple they don’t even know? We still have a long way to go. If the peo­ple in charge in our Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion were in­ter­ested in help­ing women’s foot­ball, we would have had that league long time ago.

BN: Go on. PM: I started play­ing for Banyana when I was 16 years old and if I am here to­day telling you what I am telling you and still strug­gling, what do you think will make things bet­ter for the girls play­ing now? What are they go­ing to do af­ter foot­ball? We were pop­u­lar and some com­pa­nies would use my pop­u­lar­ity to give me gigs and ac­ti­va­tions, but there are very few pop­u­lar foot­ballers at Banyana now. Even if you talk to peo­ple on the streets, they will tell you, “No, we no longer watch women’s foot­ball be­cause we don’t even know the ladies that are play­ing there.” Tell me, where’s the fu­ture there? I played with the Class of 2000s and you can try and get all of them to­gether, most of them stay in shacks. Some don’t have plans to raise funds for their chil­dren’s school fees. Some have given up on life and drink at Park Sta­tion ev­ery day. Tell me, is it fair for a bril­liant player like Veron­ica Phewa to be a taxi driver to­day?

BN: Hmmm…

PM: I hear and read sto­ries about leg­ends who don’t have money, male leg­ends, and I say to my­self these guys had an op­por­tu­nity to have mil­lions but they just didn’t know how to spend their money. With us, we didn’t even have salaries, mfethu. I never had that money. I was stay­ing in a shack while bang­ing in goals and putting Banyana Banyana on the map. Now, when I speak, peo­ple will say, “Por­tia won the Sports Star of the Year award. What did she do with that money?” So who­ever was stay­ing in a shack like me and got R500 000 two years back can show me if they still have that money af­ter build­ing a house and mak­ing a homes for them­selves.

BN: Sure..

PM: Yeah even my town­ship is proud of me, even though I never bought my­self a house. I never even left the town­ship and some of them un­der­stand that my job was to go and kick the ball, but it’s even worse than some­one who works at the till at Sho­prite be­cause those peo­ple earn way bet­ter than I was earn­ing. The only thing that peo­ple think was bet­ter about my job is that they used to watch me on TV. It’s sad be­cause it’s still the same with the play­ers play­ing for Banyana now, but play­ers are scared to talk be­cause they will be banned from play­ing for the na­tional team. Kanti sife­lani (Why are they killing us)? Once you start talk­ing, they will tell you, “Hey, you are play­ing am­a­teur foot­ball and, now that you are in Banyana, you talk too much. Now you are earn­ing R5 000 and you talk too much.” The girls don’t get any­thing from club level, so they will never get bet­ter salaries be­cause they will be told that ev­ery time they speak up. Now, tell me, what are the chances of change in SAFA for women’s foot­ball?

BN: Sad state of af­fairs, if your ver­sion is any­thing to go by…

PM: We used taxis to travel to train­ing and, if you look at Bafana play­ers, they brag about wheels, rims and even the car brands, but the girls didn’t even have the Unos. We didn’t even get the jer­seys that we played with. Then, in the morn­ing, you bump into a big belly guy wear­ing a jer­sey with Modise and num­ber 12 at the back, whereas I don’t have the jer­sey! The minute we fin­ished play­ing, the kit man took the kit. Even the play­ers that are play­ing now don’t get to keep the jer­seys. Peo­ple give that uni­form to their friends. I am telling you about what I ex­pe­ri­enced and I know noth­ing has changed. The game bonus is R5 000 and they deduct it to R3 500, while the in­cen­tive is R400. It was R50, but be­cause I fought, it be­came R400, and you only get it af­ter three months of starv­ing. Let me tell you some­thing… there’s a lot that is go­ing wrong in women’s foot­ball and, when I talk peo­ple, mis­un­der­stood me, think­ing that I want to cause trou­ble or I am jeal­ous of the cur­rent team. I was a cap­tain and I cared for my team­mates be­cause I knew where we come from. I only got my break­through when I got that money for the Sports Star of the Year. If I hadn’t got that, I would still be stay­ing in a shack. It is that money that made me a hu­man be­ing. I am not say­ing these things be­cause I want to be in the spot­light and I am not even fight­ing for my­self be­cause I am done play­ing foot­ball, but I am fight­ing for the cur­rent play­ers so that they can get some­thing out of foot­ball, some­thing that didn’t hap­pen to me. I scored over 100 goals for Banyana Banyana, but I got ab­so­lutely noth­ing from foot­ball.

BN: It shouldn’t be that way and hope­fully these per­ti­nent is­sues you are rais­ing will be ad­dressed by the pow­ers that be sooner rather than later. There’s al­ways talk about em­pow­er­ing women, about equal­ity, but talk is cheap.

PM: Yeah, we need to start get­ting wor­ried. I mean, if Por­tia, who was a star, is not taken care of to the point that they don’t even know if I am not a drug ad­dict to­day, how much more the play­ers who are av­er­age? The only thing they say about me is that u Por­tia uyadelela, ukhu­luma kakhulu (is dis­re­spect­ful, she talks too much). I grew up there. I started when I was 15 years old and I know how they op­er­ate. There are par­ents here in my town­ship who wish for their chil­dren to play foot­ball and maybe rep­re­sent Banyana and I al­ways ad­vise them to send their chil­dren to school. They must not deprive their chil­dren of ed­u­ca­tion be­cause they want them to make it to Banyana, as there is no fu­ture there and no one can make a liv­ing off that.

BN: It’s been one bomb­shell af­ter an­other from you through­out this in­ter­view. Thanks for open­ing up.

PM: Sure, buddy, any­time.

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