SA was 'fantastic', says Barca boss

Pau Vilanova
Pau Vilanova

Almost a week since FC Barcelona departed these shores, the fond memories of the La Liga club's tour of South Africa still linger in the head of Barca's director, Pau Vilanova.

"It's been a pleasure for Barcelona to take part in this clash of champions pitting La Liga against the South African Premier Soccer League [champs] in South Africa in honour of Nelson Mandela," he reflected on Barca's 3-1 win over Sundowns at FNB Stadium last week.

Vilanova said the experience was "fantastic, from when we arrived at OR Tambo Airport, where so many fans were waiting for us, to the hotel and meeting the Mamelodi Sundowns president and officials from the club, Safa and the Mandela Foundation. They've made us feel loved and it's been an unforgettable experience for all of us.

"The fact that the match is part of the activities marking the centenary of Nelson Mandela's birth makes it even more special, given that he's a person whom our club truly admires," said Vilanova, adding that "we've felt the love from all our fans here".

He admitted that although Barca won, Sundowns made it very tough for the Catalan giants.

"We enjoyed a wonderful match filled with chances and watched by magnificent fans. As for it being a 'clash of champions', it was a pleasure for us to face Mamelodi [Sundowns].

"[FNB Stadium] is certainly a very special stadium for us. Nobody will forget that goal by Andres Iniesta [in the 2010 World Cup final for Spain]."

Vilanova also shed light on the FC Barcelona Foundation, to which the club's players contribute significantly.

"Something that many people don't know is that when a player signs for Barcelona, the foundation's projects are explained to him in detail and he is told that a chunk of his salary will go towards it. They strongly believe in it and the causes which it targets."