By Mark Gleeson*
Barcelona have confirmed they will travel to play a friendly against newly crowned South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns on 16 May.
Sundowns had announced the match last week but the final details took time to organise causing speculation over whether it would actually take place, but the Spanish side confirmed the game on social media.
The South African side also managed to persuade Guinean side Horoya and the Confederation of African Football to postpone their Champions League tie by a week.
The match at Soccer City, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, is the second time that Sundowns have brought the Spanish champions out for a friendly match.
Barcelona have two games left this season as they aim for an unbeaten La Liga campaign, they play away at Levante on Sunday and Real Sociedad a week later with the South Africa trip in between.
In 2007, Sundowns billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe was alleged to have paid close to U$1 million to bring Barcelona out for a one-off friendly, which the Catalan side won 2-1 after being a goal down at half-time.
Motsepe, a mining magnate and the brother-in-law of South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, attempted in the past to forge close links with Barcelona and used club legend Johan Cruyff as a sounding board at times.
It was Cruyff who recommended two former Barcelona stars – Hristo Stoichkov and Johan Neeskens – to coach Sundowns but neither had an impressive, nor lengthy, tenure with the Pretoria-based club.
“The plan was to make the announcement on Monday in Spain. Somehow it got into the public domain and there have been so many enquiries,” Motsepe said on local radio as he confirmed the news.
“This is the year of the Nelson Mandela Centenary year. We have partnered with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.”
It has been reported that part of the agreement for the fixture is that Barca will bring along their star names, such as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, though with the World Cup in Russia looming, it remains to be seen how much time they will spend on the pitch.