The spotlight is firmly on women’s sport after a glittering week in which South Africa’s top athletes were lauded for their outstanding achievements.
Banyana Banyana striker Portia Modise was the star attraction as women rose to deserved prominence at the glittering SA Sports Awards at the Sandton Convention Centre on Sunday 30 November, 2014, and she was one of two women winning in mixed categories, when up-and-coming athletics star Gezelle Magerman also won the Newcomer of the Year Award over talented male competitors.
Significant in that it is awarded to the athlete who scoops the most public sms votes, Modise swept aside household icons including handcyclist Ernst van Dyk; swimmer Chad le Clos – who won seven gold medals at the Commonwealth Games; triple-jumper Khotso Mokoena – who also won gold in Glasgow; and national one-day international cricket captain, AB de Villiers, to become the first-ever woman to win the main prize of Sports Star of the Year.
Few would argue that she deserved the accolade.
“I am so happy that finally the voters have chosen a woman,” said Modise. “Soccer has been my passion, and I hope that my success will mean that more sponsors will become involved in women’s soccer. I believe Banyana Banyana can go far, with support.”
Portia recently became the first African player – male or female – to score 100 international goals, when she scored twice in South Africa’s 5-1 victory over Algeria at the African Women’s Championships.
She achieved this in 117 appearances, at a rate of 0.85 goals per match. This is one of the best strike rates by any of the 13 women who have achieved this landmark. Only one man, Ali Daei of Iran, who scored 109 goals in 149 appearances, has been able to reach the century milestone.
Modise first played for South Africa in 2000, when she was plucked out of the Under-19 team and promoted to the senior side. In 2008, she announced she would not longer play for Banyana Banyana, after a breakdown in her working relationship with coach August Makalakalane.
However, in 2012, the new national coach, Joseph Mkhonza, brought her back into the squad. In South Africa’s opening match against Sweden at the Olympic Games, she scored a goal from inside the centre circle in South Africa’s 4-1 loss to Sweden. FIFA.com reported that the “stunning goal” was acclaimed by all the spectators, including the Swedish fans. The goal was rated one of the best of the tournament.
In 2014, Modise was part of the Banyana team that came agonisingly close to qualifying for the World Cup in Canada next year.
Accepting the Star of the Year Award, Modise, who earlier in the week had tearfully received the Special Recognition award at the 2014 SPAR gsport Awards, said she was delighted that women were being given the recognition they deserved.
Modise said her message to other women was to believe in themselves and to follow their dreams.
“You have to be passionate,” she said.
Other women winners at the SA Sports Awards included Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Justine Asher, who were named Sportswoman of the Year and Sportswoman with a Disability respectively.
Cyclist Moolman Pasio was up against two strong candidates – javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen and wrestler Mpho Madi. All three won medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“It was a great thrill to be voted Sportswoman of the Year,” said Moolman Pasio.
“Cycling does not have a great following in South Africa, and I hope that by winning this title, I will have made more people aware of the sport I love. It is wonderful to know I have the nation behind me.
“I was also thrilled that Portia won the main prize,” she said.
“I think that shows that women are getting more recognition. Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula is committed to equal treatment for sportswomen, and I think that is beginning to happen.”
She said she was delighted that Justine Asher and Ernst van Dyk, both hand cyclists, had won the awards for sportsmen and women with a disability, as this would also help to put cycling on the map.
Asher, who only took up had cycling two years ago, said 2014 had been a fantastic year for her.
“I am deeply honoured to have received three awards: the Sportswoman of the Year with a disability from my club, Maties, the gsport award, and to trump it, the SA Sportswoman of the Year with a Disability at SA Sports Awards.
“I am extremely proud and moved, and still revelling in the moment,” said Asher.
There was more glory for women stars as the Newcomer of the Year Award went to popular 400m hurdler, Gezelle Magerman, who won gold at the World Youth Championships in Nanjing, China. Magerman has just been getting better and better, with personal bests in almost every race, and is a real prospect for the future.
Magerman beat off strong challenges from fellow athlete, South African 400m record holder, Wayde van Niekerk, and Bafana Bafana’s youngest team member, Rivaldo Coetzee to take the title.
And it was another pioneering woman who won the Administrator of the Year Award. Free State Cricket Union President Zola Thamae is the first woman president of any of Cricket South Africa’s affiliates.
Thamae, who started her career in netball, was recruited into the cricket family by Ewee Cronje, father of the late Hansie Cronje. She has blazed a trail in a male dominated world and earned the respect of all her colleagues.
She is no stranger to breaking boundaries – she was also the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors of the United Cricket Board of South Africa (the precursor to Cricket South Africa) and she also serves on CSA’s Transformation Committee.
“I feel very honoured to be named Administrator of the Year,” said Thamae. “I am passionate about what I do, and my main focus now is the transformation of cricket.
“When I first came into cricket, I was tasked with launching women’s cricket in the Free State, but now I am responsible for all cricket in the Free State.
“We are totally committed to transforming the sport, and we are doing so by centres of excellence around the province. When we spot talent, we arrange bursaries to the recognised cricket schools in the province, so that we can nurture that talent. I am also very keen to make sure that we retain our talent – we don’t want to raise a cricketer and then have him or her poached by another union.”
The 2014 SA Sports Awards appear to show that sportswomen and women in sport are finally achieving the recognition they have so long been denied. Ladies – you rock!
Photo 1 caption: Banyana Banyana striker Portia Modise laughs with SA Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula after beating SA men’s sports legends Ernst van Dyk, Chad le Clos, Khotso Mokoena and AB de Villiers to become SA’s first-ever woman to win the SA Sports Awards’ 2014 Sports Star of the Year, at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Sunday, 30 November, 2014. Photo: Screenshot off Supersport’s live broadcast
Photo 2 caption: The 2014 SA Sports Awards’ Sportswoman of the Year Award winner Ashleigh Moolman Pasio expressed her delight at winning. “I hope that by winning this title, I will have made more people aware of the sport I love. It is wonderful to know I have the nation behind me,” said Moolman Pasio. Photo: Screenshot off Supersport’s live broadcast
Photo 3 caption: After winning the SPAR gsport Awards’ Athlete of the Year with Disability the week before, and receiving her club Maties’ Sportswoman of the Year with a Disability Award, Justine Asher could not believe her third Award when she was crowned Sportswoman with a Disability at the SA Sports Awards, on Sunday, 30 November, 2014. Photo: Screenshot off Supersport’s live broadcast
Photo 4 caption: Popular 400m hurdler Gezelle Magerman showed her mettle in winning the 2014 Newcomer of the Year Award over tough competition including mens’ contenders South African 400m record holder, Wayde van Niekerk, and Bafana Bafana’s youngest team-member, Rivaldo Coetzee. Magerman’s accolade came on the back of a string of good performances, including gold at the World Youth Championships in Nanjing, China. Photo: Screenshot off Supersport’s live broadcast
(With editing by gsport)