In a press conference that was held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Thursday, La Liga ambassador Antonio Baradas confirmed that the proposed game is going ahead as initially planned and announced by the Brazilians.
Baradas went further to thank Sundowns boss Patrice Motsepe for making the event possible.
"This is only happening because of Dr Patrice Motsepe, Dr Danny Jordaan. Motsepe worked hard to get Barcelona here," Baradas told the media in Johannesburg.
Catalunya Radio reported on Wednesday that Barcelona wanted payment guarantees before they could travel to South Africa, but Motsepe said he had no doubt that the game would eventually take place.
Motsepe admitted that they had to allow internal processes at Barcelona to take place, and somehow confessed that they jumped the gun by announcing the proposed match without taking into consideration that 2018 was the Fifa World Cup year even though they were given the go ahead to make it public.
"We had no doubt that the game will take place. We had to allow internal processes within Barcelona to take place," he added.
"We were told in good faith to make the announcement. What we did not recognise is that it is the world cup year. The main concern was that players have to avoid fatigue," said Motsepe.
"Today [Thursday] is the right time to announce. We would like to express our deep gratitude as Motsepe Foundation and Mamelodi Sundowns," Motsepe continued.
The Sundowns boss revealed that they still have to help Barcelona with acquiring Visas for the match to go ahead, but Minister of Energy in South Africa Jeff Radebe, who was part of the press conference, assured Motsepe that Malusi Gigaba, SA's Minister of Home Affairs will make it happen.
Minister of Sport an Recreation Thokozile Xasa is pleased that Sundowns pulled all the stops to bring the Spanish giants to South Africa for the second time in just over a decade, saying this is a sign that the country 'can do it'.
"This is a sign of confidence for Sundowns to bring Barcelona. It shows that South Africa can do it," said Xasa.
Meanwhile, Barcelona have officially confirmed the fixture on their social media platforms.
Barcelona released the following statement on their official website on Thursday afternoon:
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.
The teams will be playing for the Mandela Centenary Cup, which forms part of the celebrations of the life of Nelson Mandela in 2018. The game presents a wonderful opportunity for South African supporters of Barça, and is being organised by the South African Football Association together with LaLiga World Challenge.
Live on Barça TV and club media
FC Barcelona fans will be able to watch the game live on Barça TV, while it will also be streamed live on the club’s official media channels, including the website, except in South Africa and certain neighbouring countries.
A much admired man
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. 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 in 200 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.
Second visit to South Africa
FC Barcelona have played 21 games on African soil over the years, and this will be their second visit to South Africa. The last time they were in the country was 2007 for a friendly in Pretoria, also against the Mamelodi Sundowns. The Catalans won that game 2-1 with goals from Santi Ezquerro and Marc Crosas.
Thirteen of the 21 games have been friendlies. Two of them were in the Mohammed V Trophy of 1969 (which Barça won, beating Bayern Munich in the final), one was to celebrate the centenary of Egyptian club Al-Ahly in 2007, one was against Atlético Tetuán in La Liga of 1951/52 (this was prior to Moroccan independence when the city formed part of the Spanish protectorate), and they have also played four games in Africa in the Spanish Cup.
Altogether those games have produced 18 wins for FCB, one draw and just two defeats.
Barça have played African teams just 13 teams in their long history, and four of those have come this century, including the only one ever played at the Camp Nou. That was in 2003, a friendly against Al-Ittihad of Libya, which they won 5-0 with goals from Gerard López (3), Thiago Motta and Sergio García.
The match is scheduled for May 16, 2018 at the FNB Stadium. Kickoff is at 18h15 CAT. Tickets for the encounter are already on sale.