South Africans are showing a big appetite for the marquee international club friendly between Mamelodi Sundowns and FC Barcelona after it emerged on Thursday that match tickets were selling at the rate of 216 a minute.
The Brazilians host Barcelona at FNB Stadium on Wednesday night in the Mandela Centenary Cup and coach Ernesto Valverde is expected to parade his superstars, among them Lionel Messi‚ Luis Suárez‚ Ivan Rakitic‚ Ousmane Dembélé‚ Andrés Iniesta‚ Gerard Piqué‚ Sergio Busquets and Samuel Umtiti.
This is the second meeting between the South African and Spanish champions. They clashed at Loftus in Pretoria in 2007. The Catalans triumphed 2-1 in that match.
Tickets are priced from R40 to R550 and after the South African Football Association revealed the pace of sales‚ it is a matter of time before they are sold out.
FNB Stadium, where Spain won the World Cup in 2010, will have fond memories for Pique, Busquets and captain Iniesta, who struck the only goal in their 1-0 win over the Netherlands.
"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 SA from 1994 to 1999," the club said on its website.
"Mandela represented the struggle for freedom and equality, 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."
Mandela was born on July 18 1918. The friendly is sandwiched between Barcelona’s last two La Liga two games, away to Levante on May 13 and at home to Real Sociedad on May 20.
Barca clinched a 25th La Liga title on April 29, the King’s Cup on April 21 and are bidding to become the first Spanish side since 1933 to complete a season unbeaten.
TimesLIVE, additional reporting Reuters