British fans buy half the tickets to Diriyah boxing match

British boxer Anthony Joshua training for the heavyweight title match against Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr. (SPA)
Updated 02 December 2019

British fans buy half the tickets to Diriyah boxing match

  • Some have booked round trips from as far afield as Fiji, traveling 30,000 kilometers to attend the event

RIYADH: Thousands of British fans have swept the box office for the historic Diriyah fight, where British boxer Anthony Joshua will meet Mexican-American opponent Andy Ruiz Jr. on Saturday, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The match is sponsored by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The organizing committee’s figures showed that half of the tickets to the anticipated match have been purchased by fans from the UK, with seats going to fans from 65 different countries in total.

Some have booked round trips from as far afield as Fiji, traveling 30,000 kilometers to attend the event.

Joshua, the favorite, said he was looking forward to beating Ruiz Jr., and winning back the belts of the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Organization, and the World Boxing Federation he lost to his opponent in New York earlier this year.

Speaking about the diversity of ticket sales, Frank Smith, CEO of Matchroom Boxing, said: “The matches in which Anthony Joshua participated achieved record sales around the world, whether in London or New York. Joshua is a world-renowned star, and I believe he will fight an exciting match against his opponent, who is also popular among fans from around the world.”

 He added: “This upcoming match is one of the biggest boxing fights in the world. Therefore, there is a global interest that is growing at a very rapid pace. There is no doubt that the spectacular crowd that brings together boxing fans from the UK, US and Saudi Arabia will provide a great atmosphere during the evening of the fight, and we look forward to expanding this audience to include more countries.”

 The fight is part of the month-long Diriyah Season, which features a variety of major sporting events, including Formula E races, held a few days ago, the Diriyah Tennis Cup, in which eight of the world’s best male tennis players participated, and the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, in which an elite group of riders compete to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

 The organizing committee of the fight highlighted that tickets can be bought from the Diriyah Season website (www.diriyahseason.sa) and tourist visas are available to tourists from outside the Kingdom through the website visitsaudi.com.


Revamped Barcelona start new season with spotlight on Messi

Updated 24 September 2020

Revamped Barcelona start new season with spotlight on Messi

MADRID: Lionel Messi will be there when Barcelona start their season on Sunday, just as he has been for the last two decades.

His every move, however, will be scrutinized like never before.

After all, never before had Messi told the club that he wanted to leave, and never before had Messi been forced to stay.

Will Messi still give his best? Will he still be motivated? Will the transfer saga affect him?

Some of those questions may start being answered on Sunday when Barcelona open their Spanish league season against Villarreal at the Camp Nou. It will be the club’s league debut after the first two matches were postponed because of their  participation in the Champions League late last season.

The team’s last official match was the embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals in August, one of the worst defeats in the club’s history and in Messi’s career. The result thrust Barcelona into one of their worst crises ever, and led Messi to make public his desire to leave.

The Argentina great eventually backtracked after Barcelona denied his request to leave for free. He said he didn’t want to get into a legal dispute with the “club of his life.” But Messi made it more than clear that he would have rather left, and openly criticized club president Josep Bartomeu for not keeping his promise to let him go.

Still, Messi said he would give his best despite having wanted to leave, and there were no signs of any letdown in the preparation matches in which he played ahead of what should be his final season with the club.

“For a moment I thought he wouldn’t stay with us,” Barcelona teammate Sergi Roberto said. “He’s our captain, the best player this club has ever had and the best player in the history of soccer. I couldn’t imagine Barça without Leo. It’s normal that he may have wanted a different experience, but he has given it all for this club throughout the years. He has been motivated since he came to the first team. He is very professional.”

Messi stayed but Barcelona will have a new coach as part of the profound changes announced by the club following the loss to Bayern. Ronald Koeman arrived to replace Quique Setien, and it didn’t take long before the Dutch coach said he wanted to revamp the squad. Barcelona will start the season without some of their key players from recent years, including Ivan Rakitic, who rejoined Sevilla, and Luis Suarez, who joined rival Atletico Madrid.

Also new for Barcelona is the fact that they will be coming off a trophy-less season for the first time since 2007-08. The team finished five points behind Real Madrid in the league last season despite having the lead when the competition was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic with 11 matches remaining.

 

Madrid vs. Pellegrini

Defending champion Real Madrid have a difficult second match on Saturday against Real Betis, which have won two in a row to start the season under veteran Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini, a former Madrid coach.

Madrid struggled in attack in its opening 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad last Sunday, when Eden Hazard still wasn’t available. It remains unlikely that Hazard will be fit to face Betis at the Benito Villamarín Stadium.

 

Suarez’s Atletico

Atletico will make their Spanish league debut on Sunday against Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, but it’s unclear if Suarez will be ready to play after joining from Barcelona.

Diego Costa was set to be in the attack after Alvaro Morata joined Juventus to open space for Suarez.

Like Atletico and Barcelona, Sevilla also had their first two matches postponed because of European competition after winning the Europa League in August. And their  opener on Sunday at promoted Cadiz will come only three days after they play  Bayern Munich in the the Super Cup.