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WIESBADEN, Germany — An e-mail sent to Stars and Stripes late Tuesday night from soccer’s governing body says a deal is close to allow the American Forces Network to air World Cup 2010.

“AFN and FIFA are in the final stages of clearing the rights and there will be an announcement very shortly. Iraq and Afghanistan are part of these discussions.” said the e-mail from FIFA.

If the deal goes through, it would allow AFN to broadcast the entire slate of 64 matches on the network’s AFN|xtra and AFN|sports channels, according to AFN chief of affiliate relations Larry Sichter.

The world’s biggest sporting event kicks off Friday when host South Africa plays Mexico in Johannesburg. The U.S. team takes on England on Saturday.

The pending deal would be the culmination of a 2 ½ year effort by AFN, who has been working with FIFA and its international television broadcast licensees for the rights to show the games to Americans living overseas.

Sichter said because AFN doesn’t pay fees to air other sporting events, it would be unfair to make an exception for the World Cup.

“Hopefully I will be able to watch the World Cup through the AFN network with the soldiers here where I am currently stationed…If AFN can get the rights in time that would be great,” said Army Staff Sergeant Miguel Abisaab who is deployed to Baghdad with the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

Abisaab, who is picking Spain to capture the title, said even though soccer is not the number one sport in America, his fellow troops will watch it if they can.

“Most people think that U.S. servicemembers don't follow soccer… The World Cup is a major sporting event and many have played the sport, and they will watch the United States Men's National soccer team,” said Abisaab.

Army Staff Sergeant Michael Simione with the 5th Squadron, 7thCavalry Regiment, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division said if AFN is granted broadcast rights his unit will definitely be tuning in from Baghdad.

“I know that for many of my fellow soldiers, it would mean a lot to catch a good game every once in a while…I'd love to see it on AFN and go USA,” said Simione.


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