CAPE TOWN - Even after Mamelodi Sundowns chairman Patrice Motsepe finally confirmed on Thursday that the mega-clash against Barcelona was going ahead, there were still some doubters on social media.
These football fans were waiting for the La Liga champions themselves to announce that they are coming to South Africa, following the deafening silence from Camp Nou since Motsepe first mentioned the trip on radio last Friday.
But doubt no more – Barcelona have finally heeded the call.
The newly-crowned Spanish champions took to Twitter and their website on Thursday afternoon to corroborate Sundowns’ version of events for the match that will be played as part of the Nelson Mandela Centenary Celebrations next Wednesday at the FNB Stadium.
The Catalan outfit also expressed their admiration for Madiba.
“FC Barcelona will be playing its part in the events to commemorate what would have been Nelson Mandela’s one hundredth birthday as they travel to South Africa for a friendly game on May 16 against Absa Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
“The team will travel to Johannesburg the day before the match, which kicks off at 6.15pm (both local time and CET) in the FNB Stadium, formerly known as Soccer City Stadium.”
That starting time is a change from the 6pm one furnished by Motsepe a few minutes earlier.
“FC Barcelona has always professed its admiration for Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest figures of the 20th century, who after 27 years in prison went on to become the first democratically elected president of post-apartheid South Africa from 1994 to 1999,” the statement read further.
“Mandela represented the struggle for freedom and equality in the country, and played a huge role in unifying the racially divided society. It is precisely this kind of spirit with which FC Barcelona has always been identified.
“It was Mandela who famously said that ‘sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination’.
“FC Barcelona joined the mourning of the passing of ‘Madiba’ in 2013 at the age of 95 by wearing black armbands in the game against Cartagena.”
While the club didn’t mention it, La Liga Africa director Antonio Barradas said at the press conference on Thursday that their best players would feature against Sundowns.
This will be Barcelona’s second visit to Mzansi, having beaten Masandawana 2-1 in 2007. They have played a total of 21 games in Africa.
Tickets have already gone on sale at Computicket and range from R40 to R550.@ashfakmohamed