Africa: ZTV Screens Nations Cup

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Zimbabwean soccer fans from last night joined in the fun and action at the 2008 African Cup of Nations finals after the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings secured the rights to beam the matches live on television. The welcome development will see Zimbabweans being able to follow action at Africa's biggest football showcase from the comfort of their homes on national television.

When the Nations Cup finals roared into life with hosts Ghana edging Guinea 2-1 in a Group A match in Accra on Sunday, only a small proportion of local viewers who had access to satellite television enjoyed the privilege of watching the game.

But with Guinea and Namibia, two of Zimbabwe's next opponents in the 2010 World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifiers taking part at the tournament in Ghana, the Warriors fans were keen to take a closer look at the two teams.

The Nations Cup finals have also traditionally been beamed live on local television. However, there was a massive outcry from the majority of Zimbabweans who felt the national broadcaster had done them a disservice by failing to bring them the African Cup of Nations action as it unfolds in Ghana.

But ZTV indicated that they were working on securing the foreign currency needed to pay for the live transmission of the games. The Confederation of African Football have given exclusive rights for live broadcasting to all the matches to Sports Five Network, who in turn asked other networks and broadcasters to pay up for the signals.

Such is the significance with which viewers across the continent place on the tournament that some irate Zambian fans even ran amok and destroyed traffic lights in protest to their broadcaster's failure to secure the rights. But a ray of hope filtered in for the local viewers on Thursday when ZTV began advertising their intention to catch up with the live action from Ghana.

And last week ZBH chief executive officer Henry Muradzikwa confirmed the development. "Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings is pleased to advise its viewers, listeners and the public that rights to broadcast the on-going African Cup of Nations being played in Ghana have now been secured," Muradzikwa said.

Last night, ZTV began their coverage with the screening of the game between Cote d'Ivoire and Benin before broadcasting another Group B tie featuring Nigeria's Super Eagles and the Eagles of Mali in Sekondi. Because the majority of Zimbabwe, including key stakeholders like Warriors assistant coach David Mandigora, failed to get a glimpse of Guinea, Muradzikwa said ZTV would be obliged to screen those matches that have already been played. "ZBH has also been granted the rights to broadcast those matches which have already been played.

"This will enable the public to watch matches they had missed," said Muradzikwa. The ZBH boss, hinted that the national broadcaster could also be re-screening some of the games which would have been beamed live to enable some viewers a chance to catch up with the action.

"Essentially, ZTV wants to broadcast every game live but that is not possible. "So we will have to record some of the games and play them as delayed games," Muradzikwa said. But while the majority of Zimbabweans will welcome the live coverage of African Cup of Nations, Muradzikwa said their normal broadcasting schedule would be heavily compromised.

ZECO Holdings has been sponsoring the live broadcasting of the two European leagues and it might mean more football on television, as there is already an existing contract. Muradzikwa also apologised for their delay in switching onto the continental football showcase and said it had been ZBH's wish to broadcast the Nations Cup matches from the official opening ceremony last Sunday.

"The broadcaster apologises for any inconveniences caused due to the delay in securing the rights". ZBH's general manager for radio and television services Robson Mhandu added that the broadcaster was legally getting the signals.

"We have paid the full amount that was required for us to get the signal. "The money was paid in Euros and we have signed everything as a legal requirement," Mhandu said. Mhandu said the Confederation of African Football were now aware that ZBH would be screening the matches live and would remain in good standing when they ask for signals for other Caf tournaments such as the future Nations Cup or the MTN Champions League.

(The Herald (Harare), 26 January 2008)