'I was at the right place at right time' - Wayne Arendse on Messi's jersey

Lionel Messi and Wayne Arendse of Mamelodi Sundowns exchange jerseys.
Lionel Messi and Wayne Arendse of Mamelodi Sundowns exchange jerseys.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns defender Wayne Arendse will forever cherish Lionel Messi's Barcelona jersey.

The moment Arendse, 33, realised he was at the right place at the right time, he seized his opportunity to exchange jerseys with arguably one of the best footballers ever.

It happened in midweek at FNB Stadium where the Brazilians lost 3-1 to the Catalan giants in a friendly to mark late president Nelson Mandela's centenary celebrations.

Arendse and his fellow defenders were caught napping by Barcelona forwards, with Ousmane Dembele helping himself to the opener before Luis Suarez and Andre Gomes added their names to the scoresheet. Sibusiso Vilakazi replied for the Tshwane side.

When the referee blew the final whistle, Arendse found himself next to the Argentine dribbling wizard who had come off the bench 20 minutes earlier. "I was at the right place at the right time," Arendse said yesterday.

"When the referee blew the whistle, I thought, 'why not?' It wouldn't make sense for me to go ask someone else when I have the best player in the world standing right next to me," added the Sergio Ramos fan.

On social networks, the Mitchell's Plein-born, Cape Town, defender was described by some as "the happiest man in the country" after landing the No. 10 jersey. "I asked him [Messi] and he said, 'yeah, no problem'. I respect him and I will cherish that jersey for a lifetime."

The Manchester United and Real Madrid supporter added that he would frame the jersey and add some pictures of himself challenging Messi and other Barcelona forwards from Wednesday's game.

In the 2007 Downs-Barca friendly at Loftus Stadium, then Sundowns defender Vuyo Mere was lucky to swap jerseys with Ronaldinho, who at the time was the world's best player.

Original jerseys of football stars usually fetch good money at auctions, but Arendse is never going to part with his prized possession.

"No, I won't be tempted to sell it," added Arendse.

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