Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were due back in South Africa in July, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put paid to those plans, according to SowetanLive.
The two global superstars were set to feature in an offseason tournament featuring Mamelodi Sundowns – who will be celebrating their 50th anniversary later in the year – competing the Argentine’s Barcelona and Italian giants Juventus, where Ronaldo plies his trade.
Messi and Ronaldo no longer coming to South Africa
However, with the uncertainty currently facing leagues across the world due to the novel coronavirus, the planned tournament will no longer go ahead. This was confirmed by Sundowns’ general manager Yogesh Singh, who said the main priority, should things improve, would be to finish the local league.
“Yes there were plans but right now all of that is on hold,” he told SowetanLive.
“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.
“We need to pause and forget about sports. Right now we are worried about the health and lives of people.”Yogesh Singh
Anniversary celebrations scuppered by COVID-19
Messi was last in South Africa in 2018, when Sundowns president Patrice Motsepe invited Barcelona for a friendly match against the Tshwane giants.
The Spanish champions were victorious in that encounter, winning 3-1, despite the Argentine maestro only talking to the field in the final ten minutes.
Ronaldo, on the other hand, was last sighted by South African soccer fans when he took part in the 2010 Fifa World Cup with Portugal, who finished in the Round of 16, where they were knocked out by eventual champions, Spain.
Sundowns are not the only local side to have their 50th anniversary celebrations scuppered by the pandemic, with Soweto giants, Kaizer Chiefs also forced to cancel their plans.
“It is important to do things differently and be more flexible‚ so we are in a holding space in terms of celebrations but when the time is right‚ things will resume,” Chiefs marketing manager Jessica Motaung said.
“Certainly some of the momentum has been lost but at the same time, we understand that there is a bigger problem and there is nothing we can do about it.
“The issue now is focusing on fighting this pandemic and making sure that everyone is safe and healthy.”Jessica Motaung