No Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo in SA as Covid-19 scuppers Sundowns' plans

Barcelona's Lionel Messi heads the ball in front of Wayne Arendse of Downs during the Nelson Mandela Challenge at FNB./ SANDILE NDLOVU
Barcelona's Lionel Messi heads the ball in front of Wayne Arendse of Downs during the Nelson Mandela Challenge at FNB./ SANDILE NDLOVU

Mamelodi Sundowns have been forced to drop their ambitious 50th anniversary celebrations plans that would have brought Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the country.

Billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe aimed to trump his 2018 feat when he brought Messi to South Africa, by also bringing the Portuguese superstar as well.

Two years ago, SA football fans were left aghast as the likes of Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele came to town in the exhibition match that Barca won 3-1.

Sowetan has established that talks were at an advanced stage for a four-team pre-season tournament between Sundowns, Barcelona, Juventus and Wydad Casablanca in July.

In contrast to Kaizer Chiefs who started their half-centenary celebrations in January, the defending Absa Premiership champions had kept their golden jubilee celebrations under wraps for the whole season.

Downs executive Yogesh Singh conceded the preparations are now on the back burner due to the crisis caused by coronavirus. "Yes there were plans but right now all of that is on hold. Whatever plans we may have had are shelved now. Remember, there is no football, so we can't even talk about that.

"Even if the situation with coronavirus goes away the priority will be about finishing the season and right now there are too many challenges with that. So we can't be thinking about any friendly games."

The attorney said the priority at the moment is to ensure that everyone is healthy.

"We need to pause and forget about sports. Right now we are worried about the health and lives of people."

With the national lockdown starting tonight, the club has heeded the call for people to stay at home. "The players and staff have been given time off to be with their families."

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