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Soft drinks firm wins sponsorship of Colombian soccer

Colombia's biggest soft drinks producer Postobon won the right to sponsor the country's soccer on Thursday after beating off rivals in a "cola war", a leading sports director said.

Postobon made a better offer than Coca Cola and the Spanish bank BBVA, which came into the bidding at the last minute.

Ramon Jesurun, president of the Dimayor, which runs Colombian professional soccer, said the deal was for five years.

"Postobon's sponsorship is for 45 billion pesos ($22.7 million), plus an extra 2 billion to finance the under-18 tournament - that's the money the Colombian Football Federation will get," Jesurun told reporters.

The youth tournament is run with a view to discovering players for the under-20 team to play in the 2011 Youth World Cup to be hosted by Colombia.

He added that a large tranche of the money to be paid up front would help alleviate cash-strapped clubs affected by the global credit crunch.

Postobon will replace cigarette producer Protabaco, which sponsored the Colombian game for 20 years but had to withdraw due to a recent law prohibiting tobacco firms from advertising at sports and cultural events in the country.

Postobon is part of the Ardila Lulle conglomerate owned by businessman Carlos Ardila Lulle that also owns first division club Atletico Nacional and private RCN broadcaster, which has the television rights to Colombian soccer matches.

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