FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier

People pose for a picture with the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup countdown clock in Doha on August 10, 2022. (AFP)
People pose for a picture with the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup countdown clock in Doha on August 10, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 12 August 2022

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier

FIFA looks to start World Cup in Qatar 1 day earlier
  • FIFA is looking at a plan to let the host nation play Ecuador on Nov. 20
  • The World Cup is set to open on Nov. 21 with the Netherlands facing Senegal

GENEVA: Host nation Qatar is set to play in the opening game of its own World Cup tournament after all — and on a stand-alone day being added to the schedule barely 100 days before kickoff.
Football’s marquee tournament is now set start one day earlier than originally scheduled seven years ago in a move that would allow Qatar to play Ecuador on Nov. 20, a person familiar with the proposal told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter.
The proposal will be put before a committee comprised of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the heads of the six continental football bodies, the person said. A decision is expected this week.
According to a letter sent by FIFA this week and seen by the AP, the governing body is asking for approval from the continental football bodies by Thursday.
Qatar should now get an exclusive Sunday slot for its opening ceremony and World Cup debut at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium.
The World Cup is currently scheduled to start on Nov. 21, a Monday, based on a FIFA decision in 2015 after it agreed to push back the tournament to avoid the extreme desert heat in June and July. FIFA also got agreement for a shorter, 28-day program to minimize disruption to domestic football, especially in Europe, which will shut down ahead of the World Cup.
Recent World Cup tradition gave 2014 host Brazil and 2018 host Russia exclusive opening days to play their first opponents. But the tighter schedule in Qatar called for four games daily for the entire group stage — 48 games in 12 days.
At the tournament draw in Doha on April 1, the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador landed in Group A with Qatar. The Dutch and Senegal were allocated the 1 p.m. local time start and Qatar was to play Ecuador in the third game with an evening kickoff six hours later.
The proposal to create a 29-day tournament instead of 28 has been favored by Qatari officials and South American football body CONMEBOL, with talks also involving the Qatar and Ecuador football federations, the person told the AP.
FIFA acknowledged in its letter that changing the date, after tickets have been sold, would affect some traveling fans. However, FIFA said “any risk is sufficiently outweighed by the value and benefits of the proposal” commercially.
A Qatar-Ecuador game involves only a few players who are with European clubs. Several on the likely Ecuador roster play for clubs in Spain, the United States and Mexico, where leagues stop play ahead of the Nov. 12-13 weekend.
The schedule switch would have been tougher to agree to if Qatar was scheduled to open against the Netherlands, which has key members playing until Nov. 13 with clubs in England and Italy.
Because of the proposal, FIFA is expected to push back the Netherlands-Senegal from the lunchtime start to the early evening slot that would be vacated by Qatar.
While an opening game on a Sunday evening in Qatar should play well with viewers in Asia and Europe, in the United States it puts the World Cup in direct competition with NFL games. The US football team plays its World Cup opener against Wales as the late Monday game in Qatar.
The 2022 World Cup is the first in the tournament’s 92-year history to be played outside of the traditional northern hemisphere summer. The previous 21 editions were all played between late-May and the end of July.
The Nov. 21-Dec. 18 tournament schedule was agreed to so European clubs could play on the Nov. 12-13 weekend before releasing their players to the 32 World Cup teams. Changing opening day should not alter the tournament rule that players must report from their clubs to national teams no later than Nov. 14, FIFA said in its letter.
The final will be played on Qatar’s National Day, a Sunday, allowing a full week for players to return to clubs before the Premier League plays its traditional Boxing Day games on Dec. 26.
Qatar original bid was made to host the tournament in June-July, promising innovative stadium cooling technology to overcome heat expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) during the first World Cup held in the Middle East.
In December 2010, Qatar won a controversial bid contest beating the United States 14-8 in a final round of voting by the FIFA executive committee, a group later widely discredited by corruption scandals.
More than four years later, FIFA moved the tournament to be played on dates when temperatures should be around 25 to 30 degrees C (77 to 86 degrees F).
Now, a further seven years later, the dates are set to change again.


Saudi sports minister chairs delegation at Asian Olympic council meeting

Saudi sports minister chairs delegation at Asian Olympic council meeting
Updated 8 sec ago

Saudi sports minister chairs delegation at Asian Olympic council meeting

Saudi sports minister chairs delegation at Asian Olympic council meeting
  • The delegation will highlight the Kingdom’s bid to host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 at TROJENA in the NEOM region

RIYADH: Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal will chair the Kingdom’s delegation at the Olympic Council of Asia executive board meeting and its general assembly in Cambodia on Monday.

The prince will lead the delegation in his role as president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee (SOPC) and vice-president of the OCA.

The Saudi committee will include SOPC Vice-President Prince Fahad bin Jalawi, board member of SOPC Prince Abdullah Bin Fahad and NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr.

The delegation will highlight the Kingdom’s bid to host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 at TROJENA in the NEOM region in northwest Saudi Arabia. The bid will be submitted to a vote during the general assembly on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia will be the first west Asian country to host the Asian Winter Games if it wins the bid.

The meeting will also shed light on the preparations of Riyadh in hosting the 7th Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games 2025 and the Asian Games in Riyadh in 2034.


Japan wrestling trailblazer Antonio Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy

Japan wrestling trailblazer Antonio Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy
Updated 7 min 48 sec ago

Japan wrestling trailblazer Antonio Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy

Japan wrestling trailblazer Antonio Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy
  • The professional wrestler, martial artist, politician and promoter died on Saturday at the age of 79

RIYADH: Legendary Japanese figure Antonio Inoki, real name Muhammad Hussain Inoki, died on Saturday at the age of 79.

Inoki was a professional wrestler, martial artist, politician and promoter for both professional wrestling and mixed martial arts.

Born in Yokohama, Japan in 1943, he spent most of his childhood in Brazil where his family had relocated. There, he developed a passion for professional wrestling. Inoki was recruited by Rikidozan, one of the the most famous Japanese wrestlers of all time, and returned to Tokyo to join the Japanese Wrestling Association.

In his home country, Inoki became widely popular and revered for his versatility and for his charismatic demeanor in the squared circle. His contributions transcended achievements inside the ring, and he founded New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 1972.

Over the course of the next two decades, Inoki built NJPW into the most successful wrestling company in Asia, using talented competitors such as Tiger Mask, Dynamite Kid, Bob Backlund, and Vader.

In addition to running the promotion, Inoki himself was one of the top stars carrying the championship, stepping into the ring against the likes of Stan Hansen, Tiger Jeet Singh and Hulk Hogan.

He gained global fame in 1976 when he faced Muhammad Ali in a wrestler vs. boxer match in Tokyo. This encounter was credited for being a precursor to what is known today as mixed martial arts, and was one of the most watched fights of its generation. In addition to the sold-out crowd of more than 14,000 at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, it aired on closed-circuit across the world.

Shea Stadium in New York aired the bout on its big screen and drew a crowd of 32,897, with an undercard of pro wrestling and mixed-rules matches preceding the main event.

Outisde the ring Inoki used sport to forge peace and diplomacy. In 1990, he played a major role in freeing 36 Japanese hostages held in Iraq.

Inoki was also a outstanding ambassador for professional wrestling, bringing major events to places such as Russia and China.

He was also instrumental in organizing two large sporting events in Pyongyang in 1995, and another in 2014. The first event, known as “Collision in Korea” drew nearly 380,000 fans and is considered the biggest-pay-per-view in pro-wrestling history.

In 1998, Inoki retired from in-ring competition. In 2010, he was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame. An WWE statement said: “This passion for competition earned him the nickname ‘Moeru Toukon’ among his peers, which translates to ‘The fighting spirit that burns’.”

Inoki leaves behind a unique legacy as a competitor. He was 12-time professional wrestling world champion, notably being the inaugural IWGP Heavyweight Champion and the first Asian WWF Heavyweight Champion in a reign not officially recognized by WWE.

The cause of Inoki’s death was not released, but he had been ill in recent years and confined to a wheelchair.


LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah

LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah
Updated 10 min 44 sec ago

LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah

LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah
  • LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will take place Oct. 14-16
  • Tournament will host the current Open Champion Cameron Smith and 12 major winners among the strong field

JEDDAH: LIV Golf is set to make its Middle Eastern debut in Saudi Arabia from Oct. 14-16 with 48 of the world’s best golfers competing in the penultimate event of the 2022 season.

The LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will host the current Open Champion Cameron Smith and 12 major winners among the strong field, which also includes past Saudi International winners Dustin Johnson, Harold Varner III, and Graeme McDowell.

The first-of-its-kind individual and team format sees the professionals compete in 12 teams of four with a shotgun start accompanied by on-course music and entertainment to create energy and an incredible environment not often associated with golf. 

Featuring a $25 million prize purse, the contest is the final international stop in LIV’s inaugural eight-event season, having previously competed in the US and England. The week prior to Jeddah, the golfers will head to Thailand for the first event in the Asian continent at the newly opened Stonehill.

“LIV Golf can’t wait for our first stop in the Middle East, where interest in both sport and golf is growing,” said LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman. “We couldn’t be more pleased to bring the biggest names in golf to Jeddah and debut our innovative league.”

Majed Al-Sorour, managing director of LIV Golf, added: “LIV Golf is creating opportunities for players from all over the world to compete on a new global stage. After only five events, the results reveal incredible competition and entertainment that are engaging LIV Golf with an international audience. We’re excited to tee off at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club which will be an excellent test for the world’s greatest players.”


Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest

Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest
Updated 49 min 12 sec ago

Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest

Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest
  • Saudi contingent also bagged 1 silver medal, 3 bronzes at AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro championship in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: Martial arts fighter Dina Elias made history at the AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro championship in Abu Dhabi with a gold-medal-winning performance that made her the first Saudi female to claim top spot at an international jiu-jitsu competition.

Her victory came on day two of the event taking place at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in the UAE capital, a contest organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro.

Elias’ gold was achieved in the under-95-kilogram division (blue-belt category) and followed a third-place finish by compatriot Haya Al-Sheikh in the under-70-kg division (blue).

Other Saudi medalists were Abdullah Ndaa with a silver in the under-62-kg, under-16 class, and bronzes for Faros Majid in the under-94-kg (purple) category, and Badi Idris in the under-81-kg, under-18 section.


Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title
Updated 02 October 2022

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title
  • First grand prix to be held under lights at the Marina Bay Street Circuit since 2019
  • Verstappen had a mathematical chance to clinch a second world title, but needed to win

SINGAPORE: Sergio Perez won a rain-affected Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday leaving his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to wait at least another week to retain his Formula One world championship.
The Mexican took the chequered flag 7.5sec ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, but could be stripped of the victory by stewards who were investigating a possible safety car infringement.
Carlos Sainz was third to make it a double podium for Ferrari in the night race that started more than an hour late because of a storm.
It was the first grand prix to be held under lights at the Marina Bay Street Circuit since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Verstappen had a mathematical chance to clinch a second world title, but needed to win and have other results go his way. He finished seventh after a rollercoaster race.
The Dutchman was always going to struggle after starting eighth on the grid and his task was made trickier by an early evening deluge that delayed the start till 9:05 p.m. (1305 GMT).
When the field eventually tore away from the grid in a shower of spray, Verstappen almost stalled and dropped back from eighth to 13th.
The 25-year-old cut through the field before flat-spotting his tires trying to pass Lando Norris for fourth after a safety car restart.
“I was up with Lando and as soon as I braked, the front wheels jumped in the air and I went straight on,” said Verstappen who was forced to pit for fresh rubber and dropped to last place.
“It’s not what I’m here for. Not with a car like that. It was incredibly messy.”
It means his world championship lead over Leclerc has been cut to 104 points ahead of next week’s Japanese Grand Prix. Perez is two points behind Leclerc.
Verstappen will need to be 112 points ahead at the end of next Sunday’s race in Suzuka to retain his title and can do so if he wins and Leclerc fails to finish second.
Leclerc started on pole but Perez slipped past before the first turn and drove a perfect race to hold off the Monegasque for his second GP win of the season.
“It was certainly my best performance,” Perez said. “I controlled the race. The last three laps were so intense. When I got out of the car, I felt it. I gave everything today.”
Leclerc started on pole but had a sluggish getaway on intermediate tires in the slippery conditions allowing Perez to reach the first corner in the lead.
“I pushed all the way,” said Leclerc. “The bad start put us on the back foot and it was a really difficult race after that.”
Sainz started fourth and managed to force his way past Lewis Hamilton on turn one, but he felt he could never threaten the front two and crossed the line 7.7sec behind Leclerc.
“It was very tough out there,” Sainz said. “I never really got into a rhythm in the wet and then couldn’t challenge the top two guys.
“I had to settle for P3, but the good thing is I didn’t do any mistakes and could bring the car home and be quick toward the end of the race.”
The McLaren pair of Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were fourth and fifth, Lance Stroll sixth in the Aston Martin ahead of Verstappen.
Sebastian Vettel, the winner in Singapore the last time the race was run in 2019, was eighth, with Hamilton and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10.
Hamilton had been in the battle for pole but had a torrid time, complaining early about his tires and later slithering into a barrier necessitating a new nose before coming home ninth.
“I think we started off with a really decent weekend, it was really unfortunate at the end,” said Hamilton.
“I was trying, obviously difficult to overtake, that lock up into turn seven, ugh, when those things happen your heart sinks a little bit.”