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COMMENT: South Africa football can benefit from Sundowns and Barcelona match

11:00 GMT+4 11/05/2018
Ronaldinho and Benson Mhlongo
Goal looks at how Southg African football can benefit from the upcoming encounter between the Brazilians and Barcelona

On Thursday, Spanish champions FC Barcelona finally confirmed that they will be travelling to South Africa to face Mamelodi Sundowns in the Mandela Centenary Cup.

The eagerly anticipated game is scheduled to take place at the iconic FNB Stadium on Wednesday, May 16 at 18h15 as part of the Nelson Mandela Centenary celebrations.

In Sundowns, Barcelona will take on one of the best football teams in South Africa, having recently clinched the Premier Soccer League (PSL) title for a record eighth time and lifted the Caf Champions League title just two years ago.

This will be the second meeting between the two clubs with Barca having edged out Sundowns 2-1 in a friendly match in front of a full house at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in June 2007.

The Brazilians took a surprise lead through Surprise Moriri in the first half, but two second half strikes by Santiago Ezquerro and Marc Crosas handed the visitors the victory with Barcelona having brought their star players, including Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o among others.

Current Barca superstars Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique are expected to be part of the squad that will Sundowns as part of an agreement.

Football supporters, who have only watched their favorite international players on Television can finally see them in the flesh and also connect with them.

This match will also help restore the image of South African football following unruly behaviour of local fans, who have tainted the its image by invading the pitch and throwing objects at various venues over the past few months.

Without dwelling too much into what really happened in the past, Chiefs and Orlando Pirates supporters were among the fans who vandalized stadium property and damaged TV cameras over the past 12 months or so. 

The PSL has since promised to beef up match security and improve the training of security personnel at all matches, while Stadium Management South Africa (SMSA) has stated that there will be tight security on match day.

Rest assured that this match will be test just how safe South African football stadiums are as the whole world would no doubt be watching this encounter with interest.

It offers South Africa the chance reassure the world that country should still be considered as one of the football-loving countries and also capable of hosting international clubs and tournaments without any security concerns.

Sundowns’ decision to take the game to Johannesburg instead of Tshwane came as a surprise to many as their first match between the two clubs was played at their usually home ground - Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

The Tshwane giants are simply looking to maximise revenue and give as many fans as possible the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle.

This will also be an opportunity for Sundowns players to test themselves against some of the best footballers in the world. 

South Africa internationals such as Sibusiso Vilakazi, Themba Zwane, Percy Tau, Hlompho Kekana, Tiyani Mabunda and Tebogo Langerman are certainly going to gain a lot from this rare experience.

The experience gained from the clash with the reigning La Liga champions could also go on to help Bafana Bafana’s cause during their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying campaign which is set resume in September 2018.

A few of Sundowns younger players, including Keletso Makgalwa and Motjeka Madisha among others will also benefit a lot from this experience, and this will go a long way in helping both the club and Bafana in the long run.