FIFA vows ‘invasion’ as 2026 World Cup venues revealed

FIFA vows ‘invasion’ as 2026 World Cup venues revealed
Traditional dancers perform during an event after the FIFA announced Guadalajara as one of the host cities for the 2026 World Cup which will be staged in the US, Mexico and Canada, on Thursday. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 June 2022

FIFA vows ‘invasion’ as 2026 World Cup venues revealed

FIFA vows ‘invasion’ as 2026 World Cup venues revealed
  • The first ever World Cup co-hosted by three different countries will also see a record number of teams taking part
  • The 16 venues named on Thursday include 11 in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada

NEW YORK: FIFA President Gianni Infantino warned Canada, Mexico and the United States to prepare for a football “invasion” on Thursday as the host cities for the 2026 World Cup were revealed.
The first ever World Cup co-hosted by three different countries will also see a record number of teams taking part, increasing by 16 from 32 to 48 as the tournament returns to North America for the first time since the 1994 finals.
The 16 venues named on Thursday include 11 in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada.
All of the US games will be held in venues that are home to NFL teams, with the likes of the $5 billion SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and the New York Giants’ 82,000-seater MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford tipped to host the final.
A total of 60 of the 80 games in the tournament — including all knockout games from the quarter-finals onwards — will take place at US venues.
Mexico City’s iconic Azteca Stadium — host of the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals — was included among three Mexican venues along with the cities of Monterrey and Guadalajara.
Vancouver and Toronto will stage the Canadian games in the tournament.
Infantino meanwhile said 2026 would eclipse the 1994 finals in the United States — which holds the record for the highest total attendance — in every respect.
“2026 will be much, much bigger,” Infantino said. “I think this part of the world doesn’t realize what will happen in 2026.
“These three countries will be turned upside down and then flipped again. The world will be invading Canada, Mexico and the United States.
“They will be invaded by a big wave of joy and happiness.”
Infantino said he hoped the World Cup would spur the development of football in the region further.
“In this part of the world you are leading the world in many areas. But in the number one sport in the world, soccer or football, you are not, yet,” he said. “The objective must be that you are leading the world in the world’s number one sport.”
A decision on which venues would host marquee matches such as the World Cup final and opening game had not yet been taken.
“We still have to discuss that, we still have to analyze that,” Infantino said. “We will take a decision in due course.”
However Infantino revealed that given the vast geographical spread of staging the tournament across North America, FIFA was looking at basing teams in regional “clusters” to minimize travel.
“When you’re dealing with such a large region as North America we need to care about the fans and make sure that teams are playing in clusters, that fans and teams don’t have to travel crazy distances,” Infantino said.
The list of US venues stretch from coast to coast, featuring several cities that hosted games in the 1994 World Cup finals. However no actual stadium venues from the 1994 tournament will repeat in 2026.
Other venues include the Dallas Cowboys giant AT&T Stadium in Arlington and the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium. Seven of the 11 venues named Thursday have hosted the Super Bowl.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium — the loudest stadium in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records — also made the cut.
NFL venues in Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Boston and Philadelphia were also on the list.
However there was no place for Washington D.C. on the venues list. It means the 2026 tournament will be the first World Cup since the 1974 finals in the then West Germany not to feature a host’s capital city.
Colin Smith, FIFA’s chief competitions and events officer, acknowledged Washington’s absence after an “incredibly competitive” bid process.
“This was a very difficult choice,” Smith said. “It’s hard to imagine a World Cup coming to the US and the capital city not taking a major role.”
Smith meanwhile said some of the NFL venues would require slight modifications to widen “pinch points” but said stadium capacity would not be affected.
“The number of fans who are going to be able to experience this World Cup will probably be double than what we’ve previously had,” he said.
“World Cup 1994 holds the record for attendance — and that’s going to be blown out of the water.”


Anthony Joshua praises Saudi passion for boxing ahead of biggest fight of his career

Joshua and Usyk will clash for the second time when they face off at the 'Rage on the Red Sea' in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Joshua and Usyk will clash for the second time when they face off at the 'Rage on the Red Sea' in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Updated 1 min 26 sec ago

Anthony Joshua praises Saudi passion for boxing ahead of biggest fight of his career

Joshua and Usyk will clash for the second time when they face off at the 'Rage on the Red Sea' in Jeddah. (Supplied)
  • British fighter takes on Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk at “Rage on the Red Sea” showdown on Aug. 20

JEDDAH: With under a week to go to the biggest fight of the year, billed the “Rage on the Red Sea,” Anthony Joshua reflected on his first visit to Saudi Arabia in 2019 and how he is ready to “put on a show” for his second fight in the Kingdom: The rematch against Oleksandr Usyk.

At face value, Joshua’s ambitions are simple.

“Last time here I became two-time champion,” he says, just days out from his rematch. “The sole aim now is to become three-time!”

Scratch the surface a little, though, and there is a far greater depth to the goals of both the fighter and host nation.

The last time Joshua fought here he did so under similar circumstances. He went into 2019’s “Clash of the Dunes” in Diriyah bidding to reclaim the belts he had lost to his opponent just months earlier, and does so again in Jeddah after dropping those same titles to Usyk last year.

Joshua went on to outclass Andy Ruiz Jr. from start to finish in Diriyah, and the Briton, understandably, recalls the night with real fondness.

“I have great memories from 2019,” he said. “Everything about the event was spot on. From the purpose-built stadium, the organization and the hospitality, it was all 10 out of 10. It was a phenomenal event for boxing in general and, of course, very special for me as I became two-time champion.”

A seed was planted on Dec. 7, 2019, and boxing in the Kingdom has grown at a rapid pace ever since. There has been a 300 percent increase in participation across men and women in Saudi Arabia, the number of boxing gyms in the country has climbed from seven to 59, and last December saw the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation introduce the first ever women’s boxing championship.

“Clash of the Dunes” left a legacy for boxing to build upon in Saudi Arabia, something the Joshua is immensely proud of and hopes to further once again when he takes on Usyk at King Abdullah Sports City on Saturday, Aug. 20.

“It’s fantastic that the country has taken the sport to heart,” said Joshua. “I know it has grown by over 300 percent, lots of facilities have opened since 2019 and the women’s championship happened last year. As professional fighters competing on a global scale it is fantastic to see the sport grow and inspire a new generation to it.”

Joshua departed Saudi Arabia a hero in 2019, having brought the pinnacle of the sport to the country for the very first time. The welcome he was given, as well as the support throughout his time there, left a mark on him.

“I have been shown such kindness since I have been here,” he explained. “It is obvious to me that the country has really embraced the sport and that certainly fills me with energy to want to perform in front of the fans.”

The 32-year-old will need all the energy he can muster from the Jeddah crowd as he runs it back against a man widely regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.

Usyk extended his career unbeaten run to 19 fights by securing a unanimous points victory over Joshua, and the 35-year-old Ukrainian is a technical master in the ring. But, while Joshua insists Usyk deserves the respect his achievements command, he is ready to make the most of a rare opportunity at redemption.

He said: “Things happen in life, but resilience and mental toughness and consistency will always prevail, so we are still on the right road. I am focused on the target and goal and it’s all about performance now. I had to take the defeat like a man and hold myself accountable. I simply have to reverse it and move forward.

“We have to give him credit, I respect him for his craft. I am motivated to get better. The great thing is I have a second chance to beat him. You can put me down, but you can’t keep me down.

“My team and I are focused on the goal, taking all the learnings from the last fight and on Aug. 20 I will entertain the fans who come out to see a huge night of heavyweight boxing.”

The battle that tops the billing at “Rage on the Red Sea” is the obvious big-ticket draw for fight fans both watching in the stadium and at home on pay-per-view, but the remainder of the card will make history, too, and is littered with talented, high-stakes bouts from start to finish.

The impact of this event on the ongoing transformation of Saudi Arabia through sport will continue the momentum from the incredible response to “Clash of the Dunes.”

There is Saudi fighter Ziyad Al-Maayouf to inspire local fight fans, while Ramla Ali and Crystal Garcia Nova will be the first female boxers to ever feature in an official international fight in Saudi Arabia. Then there are light-heavyweight and heavyweight final eliminators between Callum Smith and Mathieu Bauderlique, and Filip Hrgovic versus the undefeated Zhilei Zhang, respectively.

Added to that are names such as former two-weight world champion Badou Jack and his opponent Richard Rivera, as well as Daniel Lapin, Jozef Jurko, Andrew Tabiti and Tyrone Spong.

For Joshua, this means only one thing: This event is not to be missed.

“All focus is on fight night, and we are certain to put on a serious show for them,” he said.

“I can’t wait to see everyone at the arena. It is set to be an unbelievable night of championship-level boxing. For any sports fan this is not to be missed, it has all the ingredients to go down in boxing history.”

 


Young Saudi pool player wins against American professional star

Young Saudi pool player wins against American professional star
Updated 14 August 2022

Young Saudi pool player wins against American professional star

Young Saudi pool player wins against American professional star
  • Commentator: The big story here, all the way from Saudi Arabia, Al-Ghamdi beats Skyler, what a story at the inaugural European Open
  • Al-Ghamdi claimed a gold medal in the nine-ball competition for juniors at the West Asian Billiards and Snooker Championships in Dubai

JEDDAH: Khaled Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi junior billiards team player, scored an important victory on Aug. 10, beating American professional pool player Skyler Woodward in the European Open Championship that concluded on Sunday in Germany.

The European Open Pool Championship 2022 was a nine-ball pool tournament held from Aug. 9-14.

Matchroom Pool, the world’s leading pool promoter, tweeted a video of the match with the message: “Saudi Arabia, you’ve got a special player on your hands! 17-year-old Khalid Alghamdi comes back from 6-2 down against two-time Mosconi Cup MVP Skyler Woodward to win 9-7.”

The commentator in the footage said: “Remember, he started to play pool on a computer, and his father Omar said ‘why not try the real thing?’”

Al-Ghamdi took to the game “like a duck to the water”, and after scoring the nine balls smoothly, the commentator said: “The big story here, all the way from Saudi Arabia, Al-Ghamdi beats Skyler, what a story at the inaugural European Open.”

Al-Ghamdi’s legendary win was made all the more exciting given he had trailed 6-2 at one stage.

His achievement has opened the door to the prospect of playing against other international stars in future.

Fahad Nazer, spokesperson for the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC tweeted the video of Al-Ghamdi’s brilliant performance and said: “#Saudi Vision 2030 has established a sports sector in the Kingdom in record time, generating thousands of jobs & improving the quality of life for everyone living in the Kingdom in the process.

“It has also led to the development of world-class athletes in several sports.”

The tweet went viral as Arab billiards fans were left stunned by, and proud of, Al-Ghamdi’s professional performance.

Khalid Abalhassan @twiffessor said: “A big win Khalid. Keep going.”

@Muteb_albalawi said: “Sensational performance congrats Khalid.”

Al-Ghamdi started playing when he was just 10 years old, and despite his young age, he trained hard.

When he was 14, he was the first and youngest Arab — and Saudi — to win first place at the 2019 USA Pool League National in the 8-ball Singles Junior Division, in Las Vegas.

In November 2021, Al-Ghamdi claimed a gold medal in the nine-ball competition for juniors at the West Asian Billiards and Snooker Championships in Dubai.


Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes-EQ seal Formula E world titles 

Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes-EQ seal Formula E world titles 
Updated 14 August 2022

Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes-EQ seal Formula E world titles 

Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes-EQ seal Formula E world titles 
  • Vandoorne finishes second in Round 16, enough to secure title by 33 points ahead of Jaguar TCS Racing’s Mitch Evans
  • Edoardo Mortara wins in Round 16 of the ABB FIA Formula E Season 8 in Seoul to take third overall

SEOUL: Stoffel Vandoorne raced ahead to a second-place finish in the Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix to seal the 2021-22 ABB FIA Formula E Drivers’ World Championship and secure the Teams’ World Championship for his team Mercedes-EQ.

On a day that saw Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi Racing win the 100th E-Prix race in the world’s first electric motorsport World Championship, Vandoorne’s Season 8 title also marked the end of the Gen2 era in Formula E — the second iteration of electric racecar in the series.

The Gen3 car will debut next season as the fastest, lightest, most powerful and most efficient electric racecar ever built.

Formula E’s first venture into the South Korean capital of Seoul saw Vandoorne navigate a Lap 1 melee and keep it clean throughout the rest of the race to bring the Silver Arrow 02 home in second place.

Only Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) had any chance of catching Vandoorne going into the race. But Vandoorne’s eighth podium of the season — more than any other driver — proved to be enough to see him take a maiden Drivers’ crown and hand Mercedes-EQ back-to-back Drivers’ and Teams’ titles on the German marque’s Formula E swansong.

“World champions, wow,” said Vandoorne. “It’s just the best feeling ever. Just look at the season we’ve had, the consistency and the car has been amazing, and the team has done an incredible job. I think every single one of us deserves it. What we’ve accomplished is something special.

“Mitch has pushed me all the way along, the same with Edo, they were there all the time. It was really about the consistency in the end. They all have more wins than me, but I have the most podiums, I think. It was difficult to focus because the pace at the end was so high. I knew Jake had a five-second penalty, so I had to stay close enough to him to secure P2,” the Mercedes driver added.

“It was an awesome day, a lot of concentration. I am drained after this year. It has been a lot of effort. The effort I have put in and the team has put in — it is incredible.”

Mortara controlled the race once he hit the front via a stunning dummy that saw him complete a successful switchback on Julius Bär polesitter António Félix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) on Lap 3. From there, he managed the gap and his usable energy perfectly to sign off his and Venturi’s campaign in style — the Monegasque outfit taking second in the Teams’ running ahead of DS TECHEETAH, and Mortara third in the Drivers’ Championship.

Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) drove to a strong third position, despite a tough-to-take five-second penalty following a coming-together with da Costa.

Season 8 was the biggest to date in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship with 16 races on street circuits in 10 world cities: Diriyah, Mexico City, Rome, Monaco, Berlin, Jakarta, Marrakesh, New York City, London and Seoul. Both Jakarta and Seoul were debuts for Formula E.

The dawn of the Gen3 era in Season 9 will see Formula E go bigger and further than ever before with a provisional calendar featuring 18 races in 13 cities. The season begins on Jan. 14 in Mexico City and continues in Diriyah, Hyderabad, São Paulo, Berlin, Monaco, Seoul, Jakarta, Rome and London. Three E-Prix host cities will be announced later this year, while Hyderabad and São Paulo are both debut venues.

McLaren Racing will be entering Formula E for the first time, taking over the triumphant Mercedes-EQ team, while Maserati will be making a return to motorsports for the first time in decades. ABT will also be returning to the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.


Weightlifter Al-Biladi claims three bronze medals for KSA at Islamic Solidarity Games

Weightlifter Al-Biladi claims three bronze medals for KSA at Islamic Solidarity Games
Updated 14 August 2022

Weightlifter Al-Biladi claims three bronze medals for KSA at Islamic Solidarity Games

Weightlifter Al-Biladi claims three bronze medals for KSA at Islamic Solidarity Games
  • Saudi Arabia failed to reach the final of the men’s handball competition after a 26-25 loss to Turkey

KONYA: Saudi weightlifter Abdulrahman Al-Biladi on Saturday claimed three medals at the fifth edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games, currently taking place in Turkey.

Al-Baladi’s three bronze medals came in the 73 kg division, having managed third-place finishes in the Snatch category with a lift of 130 kg, in the Clean and Jerk with a lift of 166 kg, and in the overall final standings with a total of 296 points.

With those results, the Kingdom’s medal tally at the tournament stood at 18 (one gold, 10 silvers and seven bronzes).

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia failed to reach the final of the men’s handball competition after losing 26-25 to hosts Turkey on Saturday night.

In an extremely tight semifinal, the Turkish team scored the winning goal with only five seconds left on the clock.

The Saudi team will now face Iran in the bronze medal match on Sunday evening.


Mitch Evans wins Seoul E-Prix double-header opening race to keep Formula E title hopes alive

Mitch Evans wins Seoul E-Prix double-header opening race to keep Formula E title hopes alive
Updated 14 August 2022

Mitch Evans wins Seoul E-Prix double-header opening race to keep Formula E title hopes alive

Mitch Evans wins Seoul E-Prix double-header opening race to keep Formula E title hopes alive
  • Standings leader Stoffel Vandoorne finishes fifth, reducing his lead to 21 points with a maximum 29 points available in the final race
  • Lucas di Grassi makes history with third place finish to become the first Formula E driver to surpass 1,000 points

SEOUL: Mitch Evans produced under pressure to keep his title chances alive and slice into Stoffel Vandoorne’s points advantage as the Kiwi jumped from third on the grid to win the 2022 Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix in style on Saturday.

Championship leader Vandoorne finished fifth to see his lead now reduced to 21 points with Evans second, meaning Sunday’s final race of the season will determine the winner of this year’s championship.

On Saturday, Evans of Jaguar TCS Racing driver dispatched Julius Bär polesitter Oliver Rowland (Mahindra Racing) off the line as the Brit struggled to get away cleanly over greasy road markings, the circuit still soaked from an earlier downpour. Evans then rounded Lucas di Grassi (ROKiT Venturi Racing) with a stealthy move into Turn 3 on the opening lap and did not look back.

It was an incident-packed opening lap as a multi-car shunt at the penultimate corner caused a 45-minute red flag stoppage. Sébastien Buemi, Oliver Askew, André Lotterer, Dan Ticktum, Oliver Turvey, Nick Cassidy, Norman Nato and Nyck de Vries were all caught out by standing water to hit the wall. There was an audible gasp from the stadium crowd as they saw de Vries’ Silver Arrow 02 undercut Buemi’s Nissan, which came to rest on top of the Dutchman’s car. Thankfully, there were no injuries.

After the restart, it was a relatively serene Saturday afternoon for Evans, who eased to a comfortable three-second gap for much of the race ahead of Rowland. The Brit was happy to seal his first podium finish of the season and his first with Mahindra.

After his win, Evans said: “That was the plan (to keep the Championship race alive). It has been a lot of work since London to make sure we can make this result possible. This morning was tricky. We didn’t quite have the pace, but then the rain came at the right time, I qualified at the front and had a good start.

“The race was really hard to manage, the conditions change all the time, so thanks to the team for guiding me through. This is what we needed, we don’t give up, so we go to tomorrow and keep fighting. Can I do the double? That’s the plan. I’ve done it before. Let’s do it again.”

Meanwhile, Rowland’s future Mahindra teammate, di Grassi, earned his 39th podium in third place and became the first driver in Formula E to surpass 1,000 points. On Sunday, he is set to become the only driver in the championship to have competed in all 100 E-Prix.

Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) steered to the TAG Heuer Fastest Lap and fourth place, while Vandoorne kept the points ticking over with fifth place. Jean-Éric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH) had a mathematical chance of winning the championship going into the race, but his sixth-place finish ends his unlikely title run. Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team), Robin Frijns (Envision Racing), António Félix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) and Cassidy (Envision Racing) rounded out the points-paying positions.

The Drivers’ World Championship will be decided in the final race of the season with Vandoorne and Evans battling for Season 8 supremacy.

Mercedes-EQ sit atop the Teams’ World Championship with 301 points, but ROKiT Venturi Racing can still overhaul the German manufacturer.

The inaugural race in Seoul today will be followed tomorrow by Round 16, the final race in the biggest-ever ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season of 16 races in 10 world cities.

The second race in the Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix will also be the 100th E-Prix in Formula E history and will mark the end of the Gen2 race car era, ahead of an all-new Gen3 race car debuting next season.