Manchester United scrap plans for Qatar winter training camp amid regional tensions

Manchester United will not travel to the Gulf for a training camp next month due to security concerns amid tensions in the region, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer revealed this week. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 15 January 2020

Manchester United scrap plans for Qatar winter training camp amid regional tensions

  • Last January and November, United squad trained in Dubai
  • Earlier this month, the US men’s soccer team also canceled plans to train in Doha

LONDON: Manchester United will not travel to the Gulf for a training camp next month due to security concerns amid tensions in the region.

The Reds had not yet chosen a final destination but club officials were said to be strongly considering Qatar as the location for the winter break camp.

United are without a game for 16 days between Feb. 1 when they play Wolves in the Premier League and Feb. 17 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

United have trained at the Aspire Academy in Qatar’s capital Doha in the past during previous winter training camps, last in 2013 toward the end of Sir Alex Ferguson’s spell in charge.

Last January, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his squad trained in Dubai and some of his players not on international duty trained there in November during an international break.

Solskjaer told UK media that he has decided to take the United players to either Spain or Portugal instead.

When asked if United’s plans had changed, Solskjaer said: “Yes, there are things that worry me more than football.

“We were looking at the Middle East but that is definitely not going to happen. We will stay in Europe,” he added.

Tensions in the Gulf have been raised by the US killing of Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani in an air strike near Baghdad airport and the unintentional downing by Iranian forces of a Ukrainian International Airlines in Tehran, killing all 176 passengers on board.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued travel advice for Qatar this month, saying tourists should “remain vigilant” amid a “heightened threat of terrorist attacks globally against UK interests and British nationals.”

Earlier this month, the US men’s soccer team also canceled plans to train in Doha throughout January “due to the developing situation in the region,” according to a. US Soccer Federation statement.


Cold comfort as Roland Garros starts in shadow of coronavirus

Updated 27 September 2020

Cold comfort as Roland Garros starts in shadow of coronavirus

  • A resurgence of COVID-19 cases means that only 1,000 spectators will be allowed into the grounds each day

PARIS: Roland Garros gets underway in chilly, damp Paris on Sunday still in the grip of the coronavirus which organizers had hoped they would escape by unilaterally pushing back the clay court Grand Slam event by four months.
Opening day will see 2018 champion Simona Halep start her bid for a third major while 40-year-old Venus Williams kicks off her 23rd French Open.
Andy Murray takes on fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the day’s marquee tie in a rematch of their epic 2017 semifinal duel.
However, it will be an eerily unfamiliar tournament, even for defending champion Rafael Nadal, chasing a 13th Paris title, and 2016 winner and world number one Novak Djokovic, as well as Serena Williams, pursuing an elusive 24th major.
A resurgence of COVID-19 cases means that only 1,000 spectators will be allowed into the grounds each day.
In 2019, more than 500,000 people watched the two-week tournament on site.
Organizers had hoped to welcome 20,000 fans a day but in the space of just a few weeks, that figure was quickly downsized to 11,500, then 5,000 before the French government slashed it to a 1,000 maximum.
“Tens of millions of euros have gone up in smoke,” said French Tennis Federation marketing chief Stephane Morel as he mourned the loss of ticket income.
Players, meanwhile, have been confined to two tournament hotels with tight restrictions on their movements.
It’s at the hotels where they undergo Covid-19 testing, a source of controversy and recrimination in the build-up.
Last weekend, five players due to take part in men’s qualifying were stood down.
Two had tested positive while three others had been in contact with coach Petar Popovic who also tested positive.
Popovic told L’Equipe it was a “scandal” and had “(Rafael) Nadal been in our shoes, he would have had the right to a second or third test.”
On Friday, veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco said he was “outraged and frustrated” after being withdrawn following one failed Covid-19 test which he claimed fell between a steady stream of negative results.
Verdasco said he should have been allowed a second test.
Inside the grounds of Roland Garros, situated in the prosperous western district of Paris, there are further signs of the effect of the pandemic.
Normally bustling shops, food outlets and other commercial stalls have been shuttered.
Everyone at the tournament, including players if they are not in action or in practice, is masked. Hand sanitizers dot the site.
Instead of the early summer sun usually associated with the tournament in its traditional May-June slot, players will shiver in 16°C on Sunday with rain and high winds forecast for the first week.
That should mean overtime for the new retractable roof over the showpiece Court Philippe Chatrier.
On court Sunday, Halep, the top seed in the absence of world number one Ashleigh Barty, who opted not to defend her title on health grounds, takes on Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, ranked at 70.
Wimbledon champion Halep is the favorite especially with US Open champion Naomi Osaka missing through injury.
Former world number one Murray tackles 2015 champion Wawrinka in his first appearance in Paris in three years.