Coming soon: Luis Suarez, centre, celebrates a goal with his Barcelona teammates during Sunday’s derby against Real Madrid. A full-strength Barca are due to play Mamelodi Sundowns in Soweto on May 16. Picture: REUTERS
Coming soon: Luis Suarez, centre, celebrates a goal with his Barcelona teammates during Sunday’s derby against Real Madrid. A full-strength Barca are due to play Mamelodi Sundowns in Soweto on May 16. Picture: REUTERS

The high-profile friendly match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Barcelona on May 16 will be about a lot more than the action on the pitch with dignitaries from around the continent and beyond set to use the platform to push their various agendas.

The fixture is to be played at FNB Stadium in Soweto in honour of former president Nelson Mandela as part of the centenary celebrations of his birth.

Aside from government dignitaries and regional leaders‚ the Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Ahmad Ahmad has stated he will attend‚ and a number of African football association presidents are also expected to be in attendance.

Ahmad is believed to be keen to use the opportunity to lobby for Morocco to host the 2026 Fifa World Cup as it contests a combined bid from Canada‚ Mexico and the US.

'African bid'

Caf has made it clear it supports Morocco as an "African bid" and expects its associations‚ which make up 26% of Fifa’s total membership‚ to back the North African nation as one.

Ahmad will have the ear of many powerful association presidents on the continent and will view it as too good an opportunity to miss.

The decision on which bid countries will host the tournament will be made at the Fifa congress in Moscow on June 13.

Fifa head Gianni Infantino could also use the opportunity to lobby support for his re-election when the presidency is next up for grabs in 2020. Infantino has suggested he may attend the friendly match in Soweto

Meanwhile‚ South African Football Association (Safa) spokesman Dominic Chimhavi has dismissed claims that the fixture may not have the support of Caf.

"Safa has been in touch with Fifa and Caf with regards this game and everything is above board‚" Chimhavi said.

• The Premier Soccer League (PSL) has granted Sundowns permission to host Barcelona.

"The league has always followed the same approach in respect of friendly matches in particular when these will (or might) impact the league or cup competitions," said the PSL.

"This request‚ however‚ was of extraordinary nature in that it forms part of the Madiba centenary celebrations."

The two teams met at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria in 2007, when a star-studded Barcelona came back from a goal down to beat Sundowns 2-1.

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