‘Coloureds can’t jam ...’ Portia Modise’s Banyana, Desiree Ellis argument racist and flawed

Former Banyana Banyana striker Portia Modise really put her foot in it this week. Photo: Itumeleng English, Independent Media

Former Banyana Banyana striker Portia Modise really put her foot in it this week. Photo: Itumeleng English, Independent Media

Published Apr 12, 2024


For years racist keyboard warriors argued that black players weren’t good enough to play for the Springboks on merit, and that transformation was killing the rugby in South Africa.

This, despite black people — which includes coloureds — having played the game for over 100 years. But their history wasn’t viewed as storied enough as their white counterparts, who played in big stadiums and represented “South Africa”.

But black and coloured communities, however, had produced some of the best talent this country had seen, but sadly they were prevented from representing their country on the global stage because of the colour of their skin.

However, that perception has slowly changed over the last six years as the Springboks now boast a team of world beaters who represent every single South African. Black, white and coloured players have been moulded into a never-say-die unit who that won back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles under guidance of Rassie Erasmus and the leadership of Siya Kolisi.

In football, we’ve never really had that problem, people moaning about the make-up for the national teams — Bafana Bafana and Banyana Banyana — with the odd argument that they need more white players despite white players not actively pursuing a football career in South Africa anymore.

But white and coloured players were always made to feel welcome in our national teams, with players such as Mark Fish, Shaun Bartlett, Mark Williams and, more recently, Dean Furman, becoming fan favourites.

This week, following Bayana’s failure to qualify for the Paris Olympics after a goalless draw against Nigeria, Banyana legend Portia Modise sounded like the above mentioned bigots when she blamed Desiree Ellis picking coloureds for Banyana not making the Games.

“I see a lot of coloureds today and they don’t have have jam. We need jam,” Modise said on the Sports Night Amplified with Andile Ncube radio show.

When asked if Ellis is picking coloured players because she is coloured, Modise responded: “It’s been happening ...”

The fact of the matter is, There was only one coloured player in the Banyana starting line-up for the Nigeria match, with Ellis picking Kaylin Swart in goals.

Swart kept a clean sheet during that match, while the Banyana attack couldn’t get the goals on the other side of the pitch.

So the argument is very much flawed and rather racist. In fact, it’s just a classless cheap shot in Modise’s ongoing feud with Ellis, who has taken Banyana and women’s football in this country to a different level over the last few years.

Before the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Modise, Banyana’s all-time leading goal-scorer, also pointed a finger at Ellis during Banyana’s fight with Safa over increased bonus payments.

Saying coloured players “can’t jam” or that Ellis is pushing a coloured agenda is utter rubbish. The facts are there for all to see. It is an irresponsible comment to make next to a braai, never mind a national radio show.

Imagine a young coloured girl wanting to take up the beautiful game listened to the words of a person who is supposed to be a role model and an icon of the South African game.

Rugby, who was the most divisive sport in the country, has come along way to unite South Africans, but Modise wants to divide those who love the beautiful game just because it seems like she doesn’t like the Banyana coach.

You are better than that, Portia ...

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