Ronaldo to miss KSA clash

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On his knees: Cristiano Ronaldo has been given the week off by his national team. (AP)
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Updated 06 November 2017
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Ronaldo to miss KSA clash

LONDON: Saudi Arabia fans should be cursing England sensation Dele Alli. The Tottenham star’s performance in the 3-1 defeat of Real Madrid last week helped convince Portugal that Cristiano Ronaldo needs a break.
The megastar will be absent when Saudi Arabia start their preparations for the 2018 World Cup against Portugal on Friday. The five-time world player of the year may be slightly out-of-touch so far this season but an out of touch Ronaldo still outshines most.
The Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) is pulling out all the stops to give the national team as much international exposure as possible before touching down in Russia next June. A friendly against the European champions is a great start but there is also talk of some players going on loan to La Liga and elsewhere over the next few months. For the moment though, there would be no better experience than getting up close and personal with CR7.
There is nobody — except perhaps Lionel Messi, but that is another debate — to give a more authentic taste at football’s top table than Ronaldo. His mantelpieces in Madrid and back home in Madeira groan under the weight of awards, trophies and medals of both team and individual type.
Ronaldo is an inspiration to all or at least should be. Some see him as petulant and arrogant but he is the living embodiment that talent by itself is not enough to succeed. This is a man who has worked as hard as humanly possible to become a player who has done everything.
The hunger and desire still burns, just as hot now as it did in 2004 when a skinny teenager left his homeland and arrived at Manchester United. Years later, Rio Ferdinand recalled: “You think he was what he is today? He wasn’t. He has worked. You’d get to that stage where he was flying for Manchester United but it wasn’t enough. He wants to be the best.”
It was the same for country as it was for club, according to former international colleague Deco.
“The guy isn’t well in the head. I’ve never seen anyone train like it. It’s not easy to be like that,” he told ESPN in 2015. “Messi looks after his body as an athlete should, but what Cristiano does is incredible. He goes to insane lengths because he always wants to be the best in every way and he competes to win everything.”
There is talent in Saudi Arabia, plenty of it. Some Ronaldo-style determination can’t hurt, however, as the team looks toward a first World Cup since 2006.
How far could Yasser Al-Qahtani have gone with the same desire to be the very best that he could possibly be? “The Sniper” had all the physical qualities to become a top-class international player. His career was still memorable but could have, should have been truly special. If he had left, or had been encouraged to leave, his comfort zone to push himself to the limit, then things could have been very different.
The most exciting Saudi star at the moment is Fahad Al-Muwallad (pictured). The winger is raw but is also exciting, fast, direct and tricky. The introduction of the Al-Ittihad winger as a second-half substitute against Japan in September won the game and secured a spot at the 2018 World Cup. “We struggled to cope with him,” admitted Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
There is no reason why a player such as Al-Muwallad can’t become as consistent as Ronaldo. He may never be as devastating but if he can work as hard as possible, get the right support from club and then country, he can go from exciting talent to genuine star.
The same goes for plenty of others in the country. The friendly with Portugal this week is a fine way to start getting ready for Russia. The European champions will give Edgardo Bauza a good sense of where his team stands in the overall scheme of things.
He will get that but the players will miss a close look at Ronaldo, the player who has fulfilled every ounce of potential he ever had. If Saudi stars can do the same, the 2018 World Cup will only be the start of a golden period for the Green Falcons.


Tokyo Olympic tickets: Be prepared to be disappointed

Updated 20 June 2019
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Tokyo Olympic tickets: Be prepared to be disappointed

  • “This is probably going to be the most popular Olympics, and possibly one of the most popular events of all time,” said Ken Hanscom, the chief operating officer of TicketManager
  • Tokyo organizers say that 7.5 million residents of Japan registered to apply for tickets through the lottery system

TOKYO: Want tickets for next year’s Tokyo Olympics? Prepare to be let down.
Millions were disappointed starting Thursday when applicants in a ticket lottery — for Japan residents, only — began learning if they landed tickets. The answer is going to be overwhelmingly — no. The same will be true for residents outside Japan who could experience a similar dejection: too much demand and too few tickets.
This was not the case at the last several games — the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — when tickets were given away and volunteers were often summoned to fill empty seats for the television cameras. At times, there were too many empty seats to fill.
“This is probably going to be the most popular Olympics, and possibly one of the most popular events of all time,” Ken Hanscom, the chief operating officer of TicketManager, told The Associated Press in an interview.
His Los Angeles-based company does not buy or sell Olympic tickets, but manages tickets for corporate clients, several of which are major Olympic sponsors.
Hanscom said he follows ticketing patterns for every major event and estimates that 80-90% of Japan residents who applied for tickets could get nothing.
“I’m interested in seeing what the reaction is and how the organizing committee addresses this,” Hanscom said. “It’s good news for the demand, and bad news on the ticket side and the public.”
Tokyo’s organizing committee was unable Thursday to say how many Japan residents got tickets, and it’s unclear if — or when — it will disclose the overall numbers. Organizers will run a second ticketing phase where the odds will probably be even worse.
Japanese media immediately began reporting about disheartened fans. A completely unscientific AP survey of a few fans showed one ticket awarded in 15 application attempts. The millions who failed got this message in email from Tokyo organizers.
“Thank you for your interest in purchasing Tokyo 2020 tickets. The demand for tickets was incredibly high, and unfortunately, you were not awarded any of the tickets you requested in the lottery.”
Simple math explains the supply and demand crunch.
Tokyo organizers say that 7.5 million residents of Japan registered to apply for tickets through the lottery system. Extrapolating from the 2012 London Olympic lottery, Hanscom estimates that Tokyo organizers may have received 70-85 million individual ticket requests. This could be at least 10 times more than what’s available. Maybe more.
Organizers estimate there are 7.8 million tickets for all Olympic events, but 20-30% of those are for distribution outside Japan where buyers could face the same problems and end up paying more.
Buyers outside Japan must get tickets from Authorized Ticket Resellers, companies appointed by national Olympic committees. They were authorized to begin sales on Thursday.
The reseller for the United States is CoSport, which also handles sales in Australia, Jordan and several European countries. Cartan is the reseller for much of Latin America including Mexico.
Resellers are allowed to charge a 20% handling fee on every ticket. They can also use a generous currency exchange rate, and often package desirable tickets with top hotels that charge way over the usual going rate during the Olympics.
Ticket prices for buyers in Japan vary greatly and are listed in the competition section on the organizers’ website.
The opening ceremony on July 24 features the most expensive ticket — 300,000 yen ($2,700). The most expensive ticket for the closing ceremony is 220,000 yen ($2,000).
Even with the soaring demand, many venues could still wind up with hundreds of empty seats that are typically set aside for International Olympic Committee officials, corporate sponsors, and local dignitaries. Often they don’t show up while angry fans line up outside without tickets.
“I expect there will be a problem in Tokyo,” Hanscom said. “The industry figure is that 40% of tickets that sponsors buy go in the trash,” he said. He said the problem was acute for the Olympics and World Cup.
“Every Olympics you have a new group of people running ticketing,” he said. “And you have new technology. So you’re always scrambling to put the process together.”
Even athletes could have a tough time landing many tickets for family members and friends.
All athletes can get two tickets for each session in which they compete. These tickets are sold by the organizing committee to national Olympic committees for distribution. For swimming, it’s only one. In addition, some national Olympic committees pass on added tickets to athletes.
“The United States Olympic Committee has confirmed it will continue its program of supplying Team USA athletes with two complimentary tickets for each event they compete in,” the USOC told AP in a statement. The USOC said this was in addition to tickets coming from the organizing committee.
Hanscom pointed out that “many countries don’t make the same gesture, and many athletes who qualify late have added problems.”
Given the shortage, scalping is sure to be a big problem, as it is at every Olympics and soccer World Cup.
The ticketing system for the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup is murky, allowing for abuse, anger, and confusion with tickets often appearing in the hands of high-ranking officials.
Three years ago at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, International Olympic Committee member Patrick Hickey of Ireland was arrested on suspicion of ticket scalping. He is suspended from the IOC, but remains a member and has denied any wrongdoing. This was not the first time that a high-ranking member of the IOC or FIFA — soccer’s governing body — was implicated in profiteering on the black market.
Hanscom predicted a “vibrant secondary market” will appear despite a law that went into force a few days ago in Japan that prohibits ticket scalping with the penalty of a 1 million yen ($9,100) fine and a one-year jail term — or both.
However, the law has a large loophole and does not apply to tickets distributed for free or given away as gifts, or tickets without a purchaser’s name. This could apply to many tickets coming from the IOC, the 200 national Olympic committees, or some major Olympic sponsors.
Local Japanese Olympic sponsors have paid over $3 billion in sponsorship fees, and also sure to get a slice of tickets before they hit the public market.
“What I always say is that tickets are temptation,” Hanscom said. “It’s going to be challenging to enforce sales that happen internationally. I would expect there to be a large market that’s outside the rules and regulations. These types of rules are not going to constrict the biggest brokers who have been doing this for 20 years.”