Former South Africa striker Portia Modise doesn’t care if the football community loves her. She doesn’t care if you like her outspoken manner, or the way she dresses, or that she loves women.
She’s the only African footballer to score 100 international goals, and represented her country for 15 years from the age of 16. But if you don’t want to give her respect for that, or her countless achievements on the field, she’s not too fussed about that either.
One of the first openly gay [sic] players in the global game, Modise says she only cares about furthering women’s football in South Africa, protecting female players from harassment, and being a voice for the LGBTQ+ community in her country.
Today, 21 years after her debut in 2000, the out footballers in Africa can be counted on one hand, but interestingly include her captaincy successor for Banyana Banyana, Janine van Wyk.
Despite hard-earned legal freedoms and constitutional rights won since apartheid [same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since 2006], much of the LGBTQ+ community in South Africa lives in perpetual fear of violence.
Murder and ‘corrective rape’, during which women are violated to ‘fix’ their queerness [sic], are still an epidemic for Black women in particular. There have been over 20 recorded LGBTQ+ hate crime murders locally since February 2021.
For Modise, the especially brutal rape and murder of national teammate and fellow activist Eudy Simelane in 2008, who was stabbed 25 times, further spurred her on in her fight for fair treatment, and was a factor in her exit from the team for four years.