Mamelodi Sundowns has confirmed its highly-anticipated match against FC Barcelona will go ahead on Wednesday.
Rumours had been circulating that the match could face difficulties but judging by Thursday’s presser, everything has been ironed out.
The La Liga champion’s visit is seen as a major score not just for the Pretoria club, but South African football as a whole — a belief shared by the panel assembled to deliver the update.
Sports minister Tokozile Xasa, former sports minister Fikile Mbalula, La Liga president Javier Tebas, energy minister Jeff Radebe, South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan, Tokyo Sexwale, Patrice Motsepe and Precious Moloi-Motsepe were all on hand to brief the media on what they hope will be a momentous occasion.
Motsepe confirmed he and Jordaan had travelled to Spain to organise the match by any means necessary. He explained their task was made even more pressing by the fact that it was a World Cup year — extra fixtures, injuries and national team commitments — but they were determined to make it happen.
He said the Brazilians are routinely in closed-door discussions with teams from around the world, but Barca was always the first prize.
“If it wasn’t a World Cup year, this would have been much easier,” he said on the sidelines of the media briefing. “We didn’t just want to bring any team nje, we wanted the best. They have many offers from around the world, it was now or never.”
Motsepe refused to disclose exactly what it took to secure a match with the Catalan giants, but did suggest no expense was spared.
The exact team that will take to the field next week is yet to be confirmed, but Motsepe said there was no reason to expect a B-side. He alluded to their previous visit in 2007; it was specifically stated in the game contract that Lionel Messi would not be travelling because of injury. No such high-profile announcements this time around.
“This is a historic event and we are very proud that our local fans will get to enjoy the stars and quality of La Liga close up,” said La Liga president Tebas. This match is a further demonstration of La Liga and its clubs’ total commitment to the African continent.
“It aligns with La Liga’s work and strategy through it’s South African office. We are very proud that fans can enjoy their local stars alongside the world’s best players.”
Masandawana will take on the Spanish La Liga champions at 6pm on May 16 at the FNB Stadium.
Tickets are already on sale at Computicket.