MTN's Phuthuma Nhleko watches Caf president Issa Hayatou sign the deal
The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has signed a lucrative sponsorship deal with South African mobile phone company MTN.
The signing took place at Caf headquarters on Thursday morning in 6 October city, some 40 kilometres south of the Egyptian capital Cairo.
Caf president Issa Hayatou fronted the ceremony, sitting next to MTN's chief executive officer Phuthuma Nhleko while Caf secretary-general Mustapha Fahmy was in close attendance.
The agreement, which is worth some US$12.5 million, is the biggest sponsorship deal in African sporting history and will run until 2008.
"Caf are delighted to have MTN as the key sponsor of African football, particularly as they are committed to a long-term vision for the game," the Caf president explained.
"We believe that this can only be good for football in Africa."
MTN are now the main sponsors of the next two African Cup of Nations finals - in Egypt in 2006 and in Ghana two years later - and replace mobile phone manufacturers Nokia.
The Finnish company sponsored the Nations Cup in Tunisia earlier this year.
MTN already sponsors this year's Champions League as well as the Confederation of African Football's annual awards banquet.
"We hope this sponsorship deal will help African football gain its pride of place in the world," MTN's Nhleko said.
The company is Africa's largest cellular operator by revenue, with a major presence in Nigeria, Cameroon and Uganda.
It is the second biggest operator in South Africa and controls about half of the total mobile subscriber base in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.