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U.S. troops living in Europe may not be able to watch World Cup 2006 soccer matches on the American Forces Network, but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on the games. The world’s biggest soccer tournament will still be carried by several local cable channels and games will be shown in churches and pubs across the continent.

AFN officials announced last Thursday that despite what were termed “exhaustive” efforts to acquire rights to the games, the network was unable to get permission to show the games.

That news doesn’t sit well with some viewers.

“I feel the people who own the licensing are not supporting our country and our troops,” said Spc. Steven Selph of Charleston, S.C. “It’s the World Cup; we should all be able to see it.”

Some 10,000 families within EUCOM who live off-base will not be able to see the games unless their local cable companies have channels that are carrying the event. Cable and satellite providers across Europe have struck deals with Infront Sports and Media, the Swiss company that owns the broadcast rights to the World Cup, to broadcast all the games.

There is good news for many troops: If you have cable in your on-base housing, you’ll probably get to see the games.

TKS, the on-post cable provider in Germany, carries three of the four channels that will broadcast World Cup games in the country. The only catch is that the channels are broadcast in a format that is incompatible with standard American televisions. In order to get the games through TKS, your TV has to accept a PAL signal. Two of those PAL channels, ARD and ZDF, also are broadcast over the air and are free to anyone who can receive the signal.

The games also will be shown in scores of public venues across Europe. Early in 2005, Infront struck a deal that allows virtually all noncommercial organizations — and specifically cities, towns and community organizations — to show the games for free on big-screen TVs.

All noncommercial events in schools, churches, hospitals, companies and beer gardens also are explicitly exempted from license fees, according to a news release posted on the FIFA World Cup 2006 Web site. The primary stipulation for the fee exemption is that the games be offered free of charge to viewers.

As a result, fans can expect to be able to find the games for free on a big screen somewhere near you. Theaters, parks and other public venues are a good place to start looking. And if you don’t mind a little spirit with your soccer, Germany’s roughly 16,000 evangelical churches and parish halls also have been granted permission to show the matches free of charge.

There’s always radio, too. More than 100 European radio stations — 80 in Germany alone — will broadcast the games, though listening in requires a degree of fluency that is spared on television audiences.

Other venues, such as movie theaters, will offer the games live on screen for a fee. Those willing to brave their local pub during a match are also likely to find their game thirst quenched, but as Spc. Michael Creel of the 165th Military Intelligence Battalion, said, “It’ll make it more expensive.”

Charlie Coon contributed to this story.

Where to watch on Europe cable channels

Americans may not be able to watch World Cup games on the AFN satellite system, but the games can be found on these local cable channels:

Belgium: RTBF, VT4 and VTM/Kanaal Twee

Germany: Premiere and RTL cable services as well as ARD and ZDF

Italy: RAI and SKY Italia

Netherlands: NOS, Eyeworks, RTL, SBS, Talpa, Tweevandaag and United Football Broadcasting

Spain: La Sexta and Sogecable

Turkey: ATV Turkey and Kanal 1

United Kingdom: BBC, ITV and UKTV

— Stars and Stripes

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