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Nike, South African football announce sponsor deal

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) - Nike and the South African Football Association announced a five-year sponsorship deal Tuesday which sees the American sportswear label replace German manufacturer Puma as kit supplier to the struggling former World Cup host.

The sponsorship begins Feb. 1 and Nike said it'll make a "limited edition" kit for Bafana Bafana's friendly against Brazil in Johannesburg in March. The agreement also allows South Africa's national team to use the Nike training center in Soweto, which was built around the 2010 World Cup.

Neither party disclosed any financial details. Nike also has deals with the national football federations of Brazil, England, France, Korea, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United States.

Puma ended its agreement with SAFA last year over allegations of match-fixing in the country's pre-World Cup friendlies in 2010, citing "inappropriate responses from within the (South African) football organization" to the allegations. FIFA asked South Africa to investigate the allegations in late 2012 but little has been done, even after the South African government promised an inquiry.

SAFA President Danny Jordaan said the Nike deal was part of the process of rebuilding South Africa's battered football reputation with the team also severely criticized at home for poor recent performances.

South Africa's sports minister said last week that the team was "a bunch of losers" after its early elimination on home soil at the African Nations Championship - a lower-level tournament for Africa's home-based players. Minister Fikile Mbalula said South Africa should forget about its current generation of "useless" footballers and look to the future.

South Africa also failed to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil when it was beaten to Africa's 10-team final playoffs by minnow Ethiopia.

In the wake of the on-field failures, SAFA head Jordaan said there would be an extensive review of the national setup, including a possible change in team colors and possible abandonment of the famed Bafana Bafana nickname, which SAFA cannot market because it didn't secure the copyright.

SAFA chief executive Dennis Mumble said the Nike deal was "extremely positive because Nike is one of the most well-respected sports brands in the world."

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Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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