Teko Modise would go on to become one of the most popular players ever to wear a Bafana Bafana shirt having made his breakthrough for South Africa in the 2007 COSAFA Castle Cup.
It is yet another story of a giant from the region getting their big break in the Southern Hemisphere championship and more evidence that the COSAFA Castle Cup truly is a tournament of discovery.
Modise not only took his bow in the competition nine years ago, but also played a major role in South Africa lifting the trophy for the second time, proving his potential as a player of immense international quality.
Inexplicably given his talent, it took Modise some time to make his way into South Africa’s top flight having spent a number of seasons with lower league City Pillars before being snapped up by SuperSport United in 2006.
But after just one season at Matsatsantsa it was clear he was a player of enormous ability and he signed for Soweto giants Orlando Pirates.
He was given his chance in the national set-up by veteran Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and made his debut in South Africa’s tense 0-0 draw with Malawi that served as an opener to their 2007 campaign, and a semi-final in their first round Group B.
The match was played in Swaziland and Modise put in a steady display as South African held their nerve in the post-match penalty shoot-out to book a final place against Mauritius, who ousted Swaziland in the other semi-final.
The deciding match ended 2-0 in South Africa’s favour with Modise bagging both goals in an outstanding individual display that was ended when he was substituted midway through the second half.
That advanced South Africa to the semi-finals of the main competition where they met Botswana and again Modise proved the match-winner, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 triumph.
But this time he had firmly entrenched himself in the Bafana Bafana team and was a natural pick for the final, where South Africa faced a tough match against Zambia at home in Bloemfontein.
With Modise marshalling the midfield South Africa were on top, but the game ended up going to penalties.
Given his influence on the tournament, perhaps it was fitting then that Modise netted the winning spot-kick for South Africa in the shoot-out to see them lift the trophy.
Modise won the Man of the Tournament award in the 2007 COSAFA Castle Cup and would go on to have a stellar international career that included the 2010 FIFA World Cup on home soil.
He played his last international in 2012 against Kenya as he neared his 30th birthday, winning 66 caps in all and scoring 10 goals.
No other player made more appearances for South Africa between 2007 and 2012, such was his influence on the team that also saw him captain the side.
He will always be remembered as one of the greats of the South African game, even if his career did not last as long as many of his peers.
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