The Nigeria Football Federation confirmed on Friday that it had signed a contract with the South African Football Association for African Champions Nigeria to play against South Africa in the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge in Durban on Wednesday, August 14.
The Grade ‘A’ match, which honours one of the greatest statesmen the world has ever produced, Dr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, will take place at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, where the Super Eagles walloped Mali 4-1 in one of the semi final matches of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations.
Anti-apartheid activist Mandela spent 27 years in jail before being freed in 1990, and four years later became South Africa’s President after that country’s first-ever multi-racial elections.
NFF President, Aminu Maigari, said on Friday: “We have signed the contract. We feel delighted to have the opportunity to accord honour to one of the great sons of Africa. Dr. Nelson Mandela deserves this honour. The NFF will present Nigeria’s ‘A’ team and SAFA will do the same. It promises to be a memorable encounter.”
SAFA President, Kirsten Nematandani said: “It is a great honour for us to be associated with such a huge and significant, and also highly important project for our former State President. When we got the invite to be part of this venture, we did not hesitate as Madiba has made a selfless sacrifice for the nation. We are obviously mindful of the fact that the former President is not well and is in the hospital. We can only wish him all the best for him to come out and be among us so he can continue to inspire us as he has done for many years.”
“This event shows that no one can unite the country quite like he has, and we are proud to be taking part,” said Nematandani.
The clash falls on a FIFA-free day for international matches, and Friday’s announcement comes few days after South Africa was handed a reprieve in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying race, as FIFA penalised Ethiopia for fielding an ineligible player in an earlier game. This means the Bafana Bafana still stand a chance of qualifying for the World Cup.
The match in Durban will prepare both teams for the final group games of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Africa series, with Nigeria needing a draw at home to Malawi three weeks later to reach the 10-team final round,while Bafana must win at home to Botswana and hope Ethiopia falters in Central African Republic.
Apart from the clash with the Super Eagles, the Bafana Bafana will also play Burkina Faso, African vice-champions, at the FNB Stadium in Soweto on August 17.
– Sola Rogers, News Bytes Sports Desk
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