February 08, 2013
Nigeria won its Africa Cup of Nations semifinal match against Mali and will face Burkina Faso in the final.
Steve Haag/Getty Images

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- For the first time in more than a decade, Nigeria's national team has made it to the biggest game in African football, but you might not have been able to tell if you tuned into a local television station in Africa's most populous nation.

Television channels in Nigeria, home to more than 160 million people, never secured the broadcast rights to this year's African Cup of Nations.

Many at first shrugged, as the Super Eagles played poorly at the 2010 World Cup and other recent games, but that soon changed as Nigeria under coach Stephen Keshi now face Burkina Faso in Sunday's final.

While Africa's ruling football body, the Confederation of African Football, said they reached a last-minute deal for the game to be shown, a top official in Nigeria's broadcasting industry said there had been no deal. That likely leaves Nigeria's millions of fans to find a satellite provider or wander down the street to a local bar or viewing center to watch the games.

And fans are angry.

"It's not too late because the match is on Sunday,'' said Peter Eze, a 42-year-old trader. "But is the government trying to say that they wouldn't have gotten aired it if we weren't in the final?''

On Thursday, CAF secretary general Hicham El Amrani told journalists a deal had been struck to air the final at Soccer City in Johannesburg on terrestrial television in Nigeria. He did not go into details of any terms.

"Nigeria will see the final on a terrestrial channel,'' El Amrani said. "It has been quite painful but an agreement has been (reached).''

The program was to be aired through the auspices of the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria, a quasi-industry group that often feeds national events to its members. However, organization chairman Abubakar Jijiwa told The Associated Press on Friday night that there was no deal and the game wouldn't be shown as it stood.

The conflict comes down to cash.

Organizers for the African Cup initially wanted ?8 million ($10.7 million) for Nigerian television stations to broadcast the games, but later were bartered down to ?4.5 million ($6 million), Jijiwa said. However, the state-run Nigerian Television Authority lost money in 2010 when it bought rights for ?3 million ($4 million), even after selling advertising for the matches, he said.

"We're very anxious to show the final, but we're not going to start begging anybody,'' Jijiwa said.

Nigeria is trying to win its third African Cup title and return the country's national team to the top of African football after a two decade-long slump, while surprising Burkina Faso, which eliminated Ghana in the semifinals, will be looking to lift the trophy for the first time.

As Nigerian television stations remained blank, those wanting to watch the games have been forced to pay to go to satellite TV viewing centers for a minimum of about $1. Others buy a drink in bars where people jostle to see 25-inch screens showing the African team's matches via satellite.

"Football is more than a sport. It is one of the things that gives Nigeria unity. It binds us as a people more than anything else,'' said supporter Owosegun Chizoba Shonowo. "All my life, I have watched (the African Cup of Nations) on national television. This year, without warning, we put on the TV at the opening (ceremony) and they were showing local news.''

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