Soccer-S Africa matches postponed for Mandela services


(Adds cricket changes)

* Top three soccer leagues postponed

* Golf tournament in Durban moved

By Nick Said

CAPE TOWN, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Weekend matches in the top three tiers of South African soccer have been postponed, while a European Tour golf event and a cricket tour match will start a day earlier as the country prepares for the funeral of former president Nelson Mandela.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) said they had taken the step due to the high number of stadia that are to be used for memorial services for Mandela, who died on Thursday at the age of 95.

A huge memorial service will take place in Johannesburg on Tuesday before Sunday's state burial in Mandela's ancestral home of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

The decision to postpone matches is a belated one after a high-profile League Cup final was allowed to be played on Saturday night.

Two league games in the top-flight were also completed this weekend, as well as a full round of games in the second division.

"It has been decided that all Premier Division, National First Division (NFD) and NFD Qualification Competition fixtures scheduled up to and including December 15, 2013 are postponed," SAFA said in a statement on Monday.

The Premier Soccer League confirmed the news, citing "logistical challenges" faced by clubs.

The European Tour's Nelson Mandela Championship at Durban's Mount Edgecombe Country Club will start a day earlier on Wednesday to ensure that all four rounds of the golf tournament are played by Saturday.

"In recognition of the national period of mourning for the passing of former President Mr Nelson Mandela, provision will be made for observing the day of the state funeral for Mr Mandela which will take place on Sunday, December 15," the European Tour said on their website.

"This is during the originally scheduled playing days (from Thursday, December 12 - Sunday, December 15), so the tournament will start a day early, and in that way, the four rounds can be completed by the scheduled close of the event."

Cricket South Africa were full of thanks after their Indian counterparts agreed to start a two-day warm up match for their test series 24 hours earlier to avoid finishing on Sunday.

The switch means the tourists will now have just one day between the final 50-over match of their current series against the Proteas in Pretoria on Wednesday and the two-day game in Benoni starting on Friday.

"CSA today expressed its appreciation to the management of the Indian cricket team for agreeing to bring forward the dates of their two-day warm-up against a South African Invitation XI by one day," CSA said in a statement on Monday.

(Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Patrick Johnston)

What to Read Next