Qatar World Cup To Start A Day Early On November 20 – Sources

The FIFA World Cup trophy is displayed during an event in New York after an announcement related to the staging of the FIFA World Cup 2026, on June 16, 2022. Yuki IWAMURA / AFP
The FIFA World Cup trophy is displayed during an event in New York after an announcement related to the staging of the FIFA World Cup 2026, on June 16, 2022. Yuki IWAMURA / AFP

 

The opening match for this year’s World Cup, between hosts Qatar and Ecuador, will be brought forward by one day to November 20, World Cup sources told AFP on Wednesday.

The move, which should be approved by the FIFA Council before the 100-day countdown starts this week, will retain the tradition of the first match featuring the host country.

Under the existing arrangement, Senegal and the Netherlands play the first game on November 21, followed by the official inauguration match between Qatar and Ecuador later that day.

The World Cup sources said that confirmation of the change was expected soon. FIFA and the Qatari organising committee declined to comment.

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“There were discussions and agreement between the two respective teams and there was a request from CONMEBOL — the South American confederation,” one World Cup source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity as no official decision has been announced.

“We wanted to follow the tradition that either the reigning champions or the host country be involved in the opening match,” the source added.

For fans who have tickets for the November 21 game, “any disruption will be dealt with so impact is minimal”, another tournament source told AFP.

Under the change, Netherlands v Senegal would be moved from 1:00 pm (1000 GMT) on November 21 to a 7:00 pm start. “It is a better slot for both teams for television and other areas,” said the World Cup source.

AFP

Last World Cup Tickets To Go On Sale Next Week – FIFA

The official logo of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is unveiled on a giant screen in Madrid on September 3, 2019.
GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

 

The remaining tickets for this year’s World Cup in Qatar will be available on a first-come, first-served basis from next week, FIFA said on Wednesday.

About 1.8 million tickets were sold in the first two batches of sales, FIFA said, without saying how many are now available.

Qatar will host the first World Cup in the Middle East from November 21 to December 18 at eight stadiums in and around the capital, Doha.

The latest tickets will go on sale online from July 5 at 12pm Doha time (0900 GMT) until 12pm on August 16, FIFA said in a press release.

“Huge worldwide interest is anticipated in the new sales period,” the world body said.

Officials said three million tickets are available in total, including those allocated to sponsors.

Last week, the World Cup’s chief organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi said 1.2 million tickets had been sold so far.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said there were five million ticket requests just for the final at the 80,000-seat Lusail stadium.

Doha, with a population of about 2.4 million and limited accommodation, is bracing itself for a huge influx of visitors for the 32-team tournament.

Last month, Qatar announced scores of daily shuttle flights from neighbouring Gulf countries, allowing fans to stay elsewhere and fly in to watch games.

World Cup Police Brace For Huge Crowds In Qatar’s Capital

This photograph taken on April 20, 2022 shows an exterior view of the al-Janoub Stadium in Doha, which will host matches of the FIFA football World Cup 2022. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

 

Controlling hundreds of thousands of football fans in Qatar’s capital will be the biggest security challenge of World Cup 2022, FIFA told police chiefs from competing nations on Sunday.

Unlike previous World Cups, where only two teams and their supporters would generally converge on one city at any given time, all the games will take place in and around Doha.

The most geographically compact World Cup therefore represents the tournament’s biggest “challenge”, FIFA security director Helmut Spahn told a security conference for the tournament in Doha.

Qatar has predicted that 1.4 million people will visit during the 28 day tournament, that starts November 21, with “approximately 350,000” attendees in Doha “at the same time”, Spahn noted, speaking on the sidelines of the conference.

“You have to manage that,” he said. “But we can create history and I am pretty sure that we will manage it.”

Major General Abdulaziz Al-Ansari, head of Qatar’s World Cup security operation, also acknowledged that the numbers were the main concern.

“But we are very much confident that we have reviewed this over and over again,” Ansari said. “Of course there are going to be challenges, but the challenge is going to be part of the enjoyment.”

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The Gulf state’s police are preparing an intricate system of road closures and extra public transport to move rival groups of football fans around.

The gas-rich nation has spent billions of dollars on seven new stadiums and refurbishing an eighth for the World Cup.

The longest distance between any of the two stadiums is about 70 kilometres (45 miles).

Ansari said police delegations from competing nations would inspect the World Cup stadiums and review transport in Doha over the next two days.

Spahn claimed the threat from “terrorism” had eased since Germany 2006, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018.

In the past “we had terrorist attack threats prior to a World Cup, we had strikes of private security and police, we had problems sometimes with infrastructure at stadiums not being ready. This is not the case here,” Spahn said.

The threat “is low and under control here in Qatar.”

European fans’ groups have been seeking clarity on Qatar’s tournament policy on alcohol consumption, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.

Ansari said a guide for fans going to Qatar would be released next month.

No Plans For 100-Minute Games At World Cup – FIFA

FIFA Bans Ex-Zambian Football Chief Bwalya Over Bribery Allegations
FIFA Logo

 

FIFA responded on Wednesday to speculation that it might change the format of games in the World Cup by insisting the basic length of matches in Qatar would remain 90 minutes.

“Following some reports and rumours spread today, FIFA would like to clarify that there will be no changes to the rules regarding the length of football matches for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 or any other competition,” said the governing body of world football in a terse statement.

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Social media, and some more traditional news outlets such as Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport, had reported that FIFA president Gianni Infantino was considering encouraging referees to play more stoppage time, effectively extending games to 100 minutes, to make up for the amount of time the ball is not in play.

AFP

FIFA Faces New Attack Over Rights In World Cup Host Qatar

This file photo taken on February 15, 2019 shows the FIFA logo during a press conference held by the president of the football's governing body at the FIFA Executive Football Summit in Istanbul. OZAN KOSE / AFP
This file photo taken on February 15, 2019 shows the FIFA logo during a press conference held by the president of the football’s governing body at the FIFA Executive Football Summit in Istanbul. OZAN KOSE / AFP

 

Lingering divisions over FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar overshadowed the annual congress of football’s world governing body on Thursday, forcing its president Gianni Infantino to insist that the event had already brought change to the Arab state.

Just 235 days from the start of the first World Cup in the Middle East, a rare female voice in international football stood up at the congress to state that awarding the event to Qatar 12 years ago had been “unacceptable” because of its human rights record.

Lise Klaveness, head of the Norwegian football association, said FIFA had to act as a “role model” over human rights and other moral issues such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Debate over Qatar diverted attention from Infantino’s announcement that he would be standing for a new term in 2023 and that FIFA would make a record seven billion dollars in revenue for its 2019-2022 accounting cycle.

Much of that comes from television and marketing revenues linked to the Qatar World Cup but FIFA and the hosts have repeatedly been forced onto the defensive over the event.

Klaveness highlighted human rights in the host country.

“The migrant workers injured or the families of those who died in the build-up to the World Cup must be cared for,” she said in a speech at the end of the carefully choreographed congress when individual federations were allowed to speak out.

– Workers and minority rights –

A handful of workers have died building new World Cup stadiums in the country but international agencies have sought improvements to Qatar’s general labour record.

“There is no room for employers who do not ensure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers,” she added.

All World Cup hosts had to guarantee the rights of gay and transgender people. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.

Klaveness also accused FIFA leaders of making a “hesitant” response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian team has been excluded from the World Cup but the country remains in FIFA. The head of the Ukraine football association sent a video message to the congress. Dressed in a yellow and blue bullet proof vest he vowed his country would “beat the aggressor”.

Klaveness’s comments on Qatar echoed statements made by several European nations and teams ahead of the tournament that runs from November 21 to December 18.

Straight away, Qatar’s organising committee chief Hassan al-Thawadi took to the stage to say he was disappointed that Klaveness had made no attempt to speak with Qatari authorities before speaking out.

He said the first World Cup in the Middle East, would leave “truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies.”

Qatar feels that much of the criticism it has faced has been unfair. It has ended a labour system in which employers could stop migrant workers leaving the country or changing jobs. It has also imposed a minimum wage.

Infantino said Qatar was “no paradise” but that it has made important progress since being awarded the tournament in 2010.

– Infantino to stand for re-election –

He said Qatar has made progress in a few years “that in other countries has taken decades”.

“The only way to provoke positive change is through dialogue and engagement,” he said adding that Qatar would put on “the best World Cup ever”.

FIFA announced on Wednesday that 800,000 of the three million tickets had already been sold. An even bigger surge for the second round of sales is expected after the draw is held in Doha on Friday and fans know who their countries will play against.

The success of the Qatar tournament could play a decisive role in Infantino’s bid for a third term as FIFA president.

“I want to tell you that I will be standing for re-election next year,” Infantino said at the end of the congress.

The 52-year-old Swiss-Italian lawyer was secretary general of European body UEFA before taking over FIFA in 2016 after the corruption scandal that brought down predecessor Sepp Blatter.

FIFA has since tightened its governance and increased the amount of its huge resources given back to national federations.

But the Qatar World Cup and proposals for a World Cup every two years have tested his leadership.

Infantino appeared to backtrack on the biennial tournament which is strongly opposed by Europe and South America, insisting he had only acted on congress instructions to study the feasibility of the idea.

AFP

Aruna Sets Another African Record In Qatar

Aruna Quadri

 

Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna has become the first African player to reach the semifinals stage at the WTT Star Contender after an outstanding 3-0 (11-8, 11-8, 11-7) win over China’s Zhou Qihao in the quarterfinals of the Men’s singles in Doha, Qatar today.

En route to the semis, Aruna has now defeated three Chinese players at the tournament. The Nigerian cruised past Liu Dingshuo in the round of 32 and Zhao Zihao in the round of 16.

Aruna’s next opponent is South Korea’s Lim Jonghoon. He will be hoping to avenge his 1-3 loss to the South Korean in the round of 32 at the WTT Contender which took place at the same venue a week ago.

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The World Table Tennis (WTT) has described the Nigerian’s performance as outstanding.

“Quadri Aruna has been China’s kryptonite in Doha. The Nigerian superstar has added another name to his hit list, defeating Zhou Qihao 3-0 (11-8, 11-8, 11-7) to advance to the Men’s Singles semi-final. That makes three consecutive Chinese team members which Aruna has sent packing. Most amazingly, he has won the last two matches in straight games. Does this make the Nigerian World No.14 the new favourite to take the title?” said WTT.

The semifinal matches will be played on Thursday, March 31, and will be streamed live via the World Table Tennis (WTT) website.

WCQ: Tissoudali’s Brilliant Goal Gives Morocco Advantage Over DR Congo

 

 

Tarik Tissoudali scored a brilliant equaliser as Morocco moved closer to a sixth World Cup appearance by drawing 1-1 with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa on Friday.  

A move that began with a superb slide tackle by Moroccan defender Romain Saiss ended with Tissoudali rifling the ball into the net on 76 minutes in the first leg of their play-off.

Yoane Wissa had given  DR Congo a 12th-minute lead, sprinting down the wing, cutting inside, and unleashing a shot from just outside the box that brushed Saiss and beat goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

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With away goals counting double if teams finish level on aggregate, a 0-0 draw in Casablanca on Tuesday would take Morocco to the World Cup in Qatar.

Morocco were unsettled after falling behind and Cedric Bakambu and Dieumerci Mbokani wasted chances to put the Congolese further ahead lead on a gloomy and windy evening.

The visitors squandered an early second-half chance to equalise when Ryan Mmaee blazed a penalty over the crossbar.

DR Congo were reduced to 10 men with five minutes remaining when Ngonda Muzinga was sent off after being yellow-carded twice. He will miss the return match.

Later on Friday, Cameroon, Mali, Egypt and Ghana have home advantage over Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, and Nigeria respectively in other first legs.

AFP

Ballon d’Or Award Revamps Format

In this file photo taken on September 19, 2019, the Ballon d’Or trophy is displayed during a press conference to present the new Ballon d’Or trophy, on the outskirts of Paris. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

 

The Ballon d’Or, awarded to the world’s best male and female footballer, is revamping its format from next season, organisers France Football magazine said on Friday.

The award will now be based on performances across a whole football season, rather than a calendar year, and the jury that selects the winner will be reduced to around 100 journalists rather than the current 170.

The women’s award will have a jury of 50.

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“It’s an opportunity to give it a new impetus,” France Football’s chief editor Pascal Ferre said at a presentation of the new format.

“Before we were judging based on two half seasons. This will be clearer.”

The next Ballon d’Or awards will be handed out in September or October 2022 and will be based on the season that ended in July with the women’s Euro 2022.

With the World Cup finals in Qatar not taking place until November and December this year, the stars of that event will have to wait until the 2023 awards.

The changes are also designed to prevent the Ballon d’Or becoming the equivalent of lifestyle awards.

This is in response to the criticism of the 2021 award given to Lionel Messi for the seventh time, following his transfer to French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Many observers believed Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski deserved to win — the Pole did win the equivalent category in the 2022 Best FIFA awards.

Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas won both the Ballon d’Or and the Best Fifa award for women’s player.

In another change, former Chelsea forward Didier Drogba is joining the committee that picks nominees.

The criteria will also be clarified with “individual performances” given more prominence than factors such as the trophies won by a player’s team or an individual’s “sense of fairplay”.

“It is about avoiding ambiguities, being clear and coherent — the Ballon d’Or is an individual award based on individual performances,” Ferre said.

AFP

World Cup Will Be Health ‘Benchmark’ For Global Sporting Events, Says Infantino

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 11, 2021, FIFA chief Gianni Infantino takes off a mask during an interview in the Qatari capital Doha ahead of the Club World Cup final amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo by Karim JAAFAR / AFP)

 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Thursday this year’s World Cup finals in Qatar will become a “benchmark” for holding future global sporting events during a health crisis.

The Qatari organisers of the 32 nation event that starts November 21 and runs till December 18 said they are “cautiously optimistic” it will be the first mass gathering of sports fans for a global sports event since the coronavirus pandemic erupted two years ago.

Spectators have largely been forbidden from attending last year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics — save for a few events outside the Japanese capital — and the ongoing Winter Olympics in China.

FIFA announced this week that requests have been made for 17 million tickets for the first World Cup in the Arab region and sought to reassure fans about safety measures during an online health conference organised by the Qatar authorities.

Football has a duty “to make sure this not only the best World Cup ever but also the healthiest World Cup ever,” Infantino said in a recorded statement for the event.

He added that the health and security standards will be “a benchmark for future sporting events of this scale.”

The same message was given by World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who highlighted the “unique challenges” faced by organisers because of the pandemic.

WHO has been working with the Qatar government on health security, infectious diseases, food safety, co-ordination and communication during the World Cup.

“The lessons learned from Qatar’s experience in this World Cup will help us all in designing health and safety measures for other large scale events,” Tedros added.

Neither FIFA nor the Qatar organisers, who have spent billions of dollars preparing for the event, have said what would happen if a new coronavirus wave threatens the event.

But Hassan Al Thawadi, director general of the government’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said: “While the pandemic is still very much here with us, we can now see real light at the end of the tunnel.

“In our eyes, the pandemic has given Qatar 2022 a new significance. Our World Cup may well be the first time that the world can properly come together to celebrate its passion for football.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we may be the country that hosts the first true gathering of global fans since the start of the crisis,” added Thawadi.

Qatar Emir Meets Biden In Shadow Of Ukraine Tensions

US President Joe Biden speaks to the press about the situation in Ukraine, after arriving on Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, January 28, 2022. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

 

US President Joe Biden will build on attempts to ensure energy back-up for European allies when he hosts Qatar’s emir Monday in a White House meeting overshadowed by fears that Russia could cut exports over the Ukraine crisis.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani will be the first Gulf state leader to visit Biden since he became president just over a year ago and the Oval Office talks will cement the tiny country’s status as a major international player.

In addition to meeting Biden, the sheikh will meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, members of Congress and other officials, the White House said.

The most urgent agenda item is a scramble by the United States and the EU to ensure that European nations, already hit by soaring energy prices, can weather disruption in Russian exports if Moscow decides to cut supplies.

Western capitals are threatening unprecedented economic sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine, where it has placed more than 100,000 combat troops on the border.

However there are fears that the oil- and gas-producing giant could retaliate against the European Union, which imports 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia.

Announcing the visit, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the emir and Biden would be discussing “the stability of global energy supplies.”

Qatar is one of the world’s biggest liquid natural gas exporters, along with the United States and Australia, and there are hopes in Washington and Europe that Doha can temporarily redirect exports destined for Asian markets.

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However, Qatar has little to no extra capacity in its LNG and there are limitations to how much supply can be diverted from existing contracts.

Speaking just ahead of the visit, a senior US official seemed to downplay the focus on how much to expect from Qatar in the energy reshuffle, saying only “we’re consulting with all the leading gas suppliers around the world.”

“I’m not going to be able to give you anything further on LNG,” the official told reporters Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It will figure in the mix, but I can’t give you any details.”

Qatar plays a key role in the region for the United States as host for the Pentagon’s Central Command.

During the Afghanistan evacuation last year, US forces sent about 60,000 Afghans and Americans transiting through the Qatar air base.

Doha, serving as Washington’s diplomatic contact with the Taliban, will be pivotal to any future contact with Afghanistan, as well as playing a role in efforts to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal.

Qatar Airways, meanwhile, is keen to build its cargo fleet and has expressed interest in a deal with Boeing to become the launch customer for the US aerospace giant’s new 777X freighter.

Qatar World Cup Ticket Sales Launched At Reduced Prices

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 10, 2021 a view of the Education City Stadium in the Qatari city of Ar-Rayyan. – Qatar World Cup ticket sales were launched at reduced prices on January 19, 2022 with residents and migrant workers able to attend games for just $11 as concerns persist over Covid-19. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)

 

Qatar World Cup ticket sales were launched at reduced prices on Wednesday with residents and migrant workers able to attend games for just $11 as concerns persist over Covid-19.

Authorities have not yet announced how many fans will be allowed into stadiums for the first World Cup in an Arab country, which runs from November 21 until December 18.

Football’s world governing body FIFA opened a draw which offers individual match tickets for as little as $69 for international fans — about one third less than at Russia 2018 — but a ticket for the final could cost up to $1,607.

Qatari residents, including migrant labourers whose treatment has been a source of controversy for the organisers, will be able to get tickets for as little as $11.

Fans who apply now for the different packages — for individual games or following a team, or for special stadium tickets — will go into a draw after the first deadline on February 8. FIFA said fans who are successful in a random draw will be told by March 8.

Qatar Suspends Leave For Health Workers Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases

A medical staff uses a self-testing kit for the coronavirus causing Covid-19. AFP

 

Qatar’s main healthcare provider has suspended leave for all medical and administrative staff dealing with Covid, as infections surge across the Gulf.  

The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Qatar — have been recording their highest numbers of new cases in months.

“Due to the recent increase in the number of people infected with Covid-19 in Qatar… the difficult decision has been made to put on hold all approved and future employees’ leave requests for clinical and admin staff who are working in Covid-19 activities,” the state-owned Hamad Medical Corporation said in an internal memo circulated on Monday and seen by AFP.

“This decision comes into immediate effect and until further notice.”

It said staff would be compensated for working overtime, as the country gears up to host the 2022 World Cup.

Since the pandemic began, Qatar has recorded more than 248,000 infections, including 616 deaths. Monday’s tally of 343 infections was the highest since May.

Altogether, the six members of the GCC have recorded more than 2.5 million cases, among them over 19,000 deaths.

Despite having the world’s highest vaccination rate, the UAE has recorded the largest number of infections among Gulf countries at more than 753,000. On Monday, it recorded 1,732 infections, the highest number in six months.

The UAE emirate of Dubai was one of the world’s first destinations to welcome back visitors last July. Tourism is an economic mainstay in Dubai, which welcomed 16.7 million visitors in 2019.

Earlier this month, Dubai international airport, one of the world’s busiest travel hubs, announced it was fully operational for the first time since the pandemic erupted in March 2020.

Dubai is counting on the six-month Expo 2020 trade fair to boost the economy, with more than seven million visits since it opened on October 1.

Expo has said that venues may “close temporarily for deep cleaning and sanitisation in response to positive cases detected by extensive workforce testing protocols”.

The UAE has so far fully inoculated more than 90 percent of eligible people among its population of nearly 10 million.

AFP