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The first-ever survey of World Cup viewing habits among Africans has given added weight to what has long been suspected — fans across the continent are mad for the beautiful game.

Ghana fans cheer their team during their African Nations Cup Group B soccer match against Mali at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Ghana fans cheer their team/Photo Reuters 

GeoPoll, a pollster that uses text messages to survey developing nations, said on Wednesday 17.5 million Nigerian adults — about a fifth of the adult population — watched their team’s opener against Iran.

The figure was revealed as part of an analysis of viewing trends representing 300 million people in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, GeoPoll said, providing a first glimpse of how many African fans are tuning into the World Cup.

It indicated that more than 25 million adults from the five nations watched the Nigeria game, making it the most-watched over the first five days of play.

Some 3.5 million Ghanaians watched the tournament curtain-raiser between Brazil and Croatia, while 2.4 million saw Ghana’s own tie against the United States.

GeoPoll said the drop could possibly be explained by the later 10:00 pm (2200 GMT) kick-off.

Both Nigeria and Ghana have had consistently high percentages of their adult population watching the games — an average of 14 percent for Ghana and 10 percent for Nigeria, according to the survey.

On average, 2.2 million Ghanaians tuned in to every hour of play during the first five days.

The figures are dwarfed by viewing trends in many developed countries including the United States, where 15.9 million viewers watched their team beat Ghana, according to overnight Nielsen ratings.

But they represent a significant demonstration of support in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to many of the world’s poorest nations and where fewer than a quarter of households own televisions.

In comparison, 98 percent of households in the United States own sets, according to global statistics curator Nationmaster.

The World Cup qualifying rounds feature five African teams — Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

Ivory Coast began their campaign with a 2-1 win over Japan, while Nigeria played out a scoreless draw with Iran and Ghana lost 2-1 to the US.

Algeria lost to Belgium on Tuesday and Cameroon are due to play Croatia on Wednesday, looking to atone for an opening defeat to Mexico.

GeoPoll uses text messages as well as voice- and web-based communications to reach a minimum of 2,000 people daily per country.

Its survey picked out gender differences in viewing habits across the surveyed countries, with almost three-quarters of Ghana’s viewers over the first five days being men.

In Nigeria, the gender split was less dramatic, with 38 percent of viewers being women.

The New Vision