World Cup ticket sales near 3 million, says Infantino

World Cup ticket sales near 3 million, says Infantino
FIFA's president Gianni Infantino delivers a video message during a press conference by organizers of the FIFA 2022 football World Cup, in the Qatari capital Doha, on Oct. 17, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 18 October 2022

World Cup ticket sales near 3 million, says Infantino

World Cup ticket sales near 3 million, says Infantino
  • The top 10 purchasing countries of the 2.89 million tickets sold are Qatar, the US, Saudi Arabia, England, Mexico, the UAE, Argentina, France, Brazil and Germany

DOHA: Ticket sales for the soccer World Cup are approaching the 3 million mark ahead of the tournament kicking off in Qatar on Nov. 20, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and event organizers said on Monday.

The top 10 purchasing countries of the 2.89 million tickets sold are Qatar, the US, Saudi Arabia, England, Mexico, the UAE, Argentina, France, Brazil and Germany, FIFA’s World Cup Chief Operating Officer Colin Smith told a news conference in Doha.

“There is currently either low or no availability for matches,” Smith said.

Infantino, addressing the conference in a recorded video, said 240,000 hospitality packages had been sold for the month-long tournament, making it the “most successful hospitality program ever,” he said.

Hospitality tickets, which allow access to luxurious stadium lounges, some with free-flowing alcoholic drinks, cost more than $34,300 per person for semifinal matches and the final, according to FIFA’s website.

Qatar, the smallest country to have hosted soccer’s global showpiece tournament, is preparing for an estimated 1.2 million visitors during the World Cup, the first to be held in a Middle Eastern country.

Thousands of fans are expected to stay in neighboring countries like tourism hub the UAE and fly in to Doha for matches due to limited accommodation in Qatar.

The director general of Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee, Yasir Al Jamal, told the news conference that two million room nights had been sold and Qatar has added an additional 30,000 rooms to accommodate last-minute ticket sales.

“This has been designed to ensure that all ticket holders have the best chance of securing accommodation,” Al Jamal said.

With most of the 31,000 or so hotel rooms in Qatar occupied by soccer teams, their support staff and World Cup officials, organizers are offering fans accommodation in apartments, villas, prefabricated metal cabins, desert tents and three cruise ships moored in the Doha port.

Japan will be the first team to arrive for the tournament on Nov. 7, Smith said.


Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss
Updated 28 January 2023

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss
  • Rybakina powered down nine aces and 31 winners over two hours and 28 minutes of punch and counter-punch
  • Sabalenka was unstoppable on Rod Laver Arena

MELBOURNE: Elena Rybakina said she struggled with the “pressure” and aggression from Aryna Sabalenka in falling to defeat in the Australian Open final on Saturday.
The Russian-born Kazakh gave as good as she got over three pulsating sets at Melbourne Park before losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the face of some ferocious hitting from fifth seed Sabalenka.
Rybakina, who has one of the most potent serves in women’s tennis and some of the fiercest groundstrokes, powered down nine aces and 31 winners over two hours and 28 minutes of punch and counter-punch.
But Sabalenka was unstoppable on Rod Laver Arena, the Belarusian juggernaut hitting back with 17 aces of her own and 51 winners, finally getting over the line on her fourth match point.
“I would say that not many girls can put me really under that sort of pressure,” Rybakina, 23, told reporters.
“She has a great serve and she plays really aggressive. Her ball is coming very heavy.
“I just knew that I had to serve well. It’s also pressure in the end, as soon as I have an opportunity, take it.
“Today I had some opportunities and didn’t take. The match didn’t go my way.”
Wimbledon champion Rybakina has now failed to beat Sabalenka in all of their four meetings and admitted she needs to improve if she is to break her duck.
“With Aryna now, the score is 0-4,” Rybakina said. “I would say the most challenging for me now is to play against Aryna again and get a win.
“Against a powerful player like her, I need to play more to improve.”
Rybakina will have the consolation of breaking into the top 10 for the first time, after reaching her second Grand Slam final in seven months.
She was awarded no ranking points for her Wimbledon win because of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players there.
“I don’t think tomorrow I’m going to feel different just because of the ranking now,” said Rybakina, who is projected to rise to 10th from her current 25th on Monday when the new rankings are published.
“But, I mean, for sure it’s going to be different in the smaller tournaments. I’m going to be seeded and maybe in some tournaments I’m not going to play first round, so of course there is some benefits.”


‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season
Updated 28 January 2023

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

DIRIYAH: Formula E is back for its ninth season and after a two-week break following an opener in Mexico City, the Diriyah E-Prix kicked off on Friday in the Saudi capital with two days of racing on the Diriyah Street Course.

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team driver Pascal Wehrlein won round two of ABB FIA Formula E.

British racer Jake Dennis for team Avalanche Andretti said that the big difference between the Gen3 car from the Gen2 is in the grip and power of the vehicles. “But I think we did a really good debut night race here. You know, it was a lot of overtaking for everyone. It seemed like the race was action-packed the whole time. So I think we can be really happy with, you know, the good show and the pre-race build looks pretty cool as well with the fireworks and the drone display. So yeah, very happy for everyone involved to put on a good show today,” he said.

“Yeah, those Gen3 cars are massively different. They have more power, we have different tires. Also, the energy management is completely different. So, we have a lot to learn still. We are still figuring out how this animal works. But overall, I think we were making good progress. Especially I did a big step from yesterday to today. finishing fifth today for me, is quite a good result,” said Rene Rast, a German driver with McLaren.

 This season, laps have replaced the previous 45-minute timed races and pit stops are also back with the “attack charge” to be trialed at select races. (Arab News)

Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa of Porsche described it as “awesome” to be back in Saudi Arabia. “It’s impressive to see the evolution of this place or the area, where everything’s being built around and how we are always welcome,” he said, adding that the Kingdom always gives a warm welcome to the Formula E. “The track is one of the most fun tracks of the year. And it’s a big challenge. But it’s a lot of fun.”

He added that every track is different, but that the Diriyah course has a lot of character. “You know, there’s a sector, too, it’s kind of high speed, you know, a good sequence of corners which is a good challenge for us and makes it fun,” he said.

This season, laps have replaced the previous 45-minute timed races and pit stops are also back with the “attack charge” to be trialed at select races.


LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
Updated 28 January 2023

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
  • Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for  Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against San Antonio Spurs

NEW YORK: A game-worn jersey of basketball superstar LeBron James sold for $3.7 million at auction Friday, five times more than the previous record for one of his shirts.

The sale comes with interest even higher than usual in the 38-year-old LA Lakers icon as he nears the NBA’s all-time scoring record.

Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for the Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against the San Antonio Spurs.

It smashed the previous record of $630,000 for a James All-Star jersey worn in 2020.

Game-worn sports memorabilia is big business.

Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which sold for $10.1 million in September 2022, is currently the most valuable such item.

Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s in London last year.

James needs just 178 points to eclipse Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s tally of 38,387 points, one of the most coveted and longstanding records in basketball.

Sotheby’s also sold a dress worn by the late Princess Diana for $604,800 Friday.


Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
Updated 28 January 2023

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
  • Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th

LEIPZIG, Germany: Two sweetly hit shots from Dominik Szoboszlai lifted Leipzig to a 2-1 win over Stuttgart to close within a point of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Friday.

Szoboszlai had not scored in the league since September before the Hungarian midfielder gave his team the lead with a swerving, dipping free kick in the 25th minute that goalkeeper Florian Muller could only push into his own net.

Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th, using one touch to control a header from teammate Andre Silva on the edge of the penalty area before letting the ball drop and striking a half-volley that left Muller no chance.

Embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation, Stuttgart had plenty of chances to exploit defensive errors from Leipzig but couldn’t convert enough of them.

Shortly before Szoboszlai’s second goal, Stuttgart’s Niklas Nartey could have leveled the score when he was one-on-one with Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich, but his shot bobbled wide of the far post instead. Stuttgart finally scored when Chris Führich powered a penalty past Blaswich in the 68th after a handball by defender Joško Gvardiol. That ensured a tense finish for Leipzig but the hosts largely kept Stuttgart at bay in the closing stages.

Bayern has drawn both of its opening games of 2023, including one against Leipzig last week, as it adapts to life without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has a broken leg. Bayern can restore a four-point lead if it beats fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.


Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
Updated 28 January 2023

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
  • England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester City issued a statement of intent by knocking out Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup on Friday.

Nathan Ake’s 64th-minute goal settled the fourth-round match at Etihad Stadium and the result may yet reverberate through the rest of the season.

Arsenal lead City by five points at the top of the English Premier League, but their seven-game unbeaten run was ended by City, who have three straight wins in all competitions.

England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15. For now, City manager Pep Guardiola has gained an edge on his former assistant, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

“I know how difficult it is to beat Arsenal. They lost one game in the Premier League, so I know how difficult it is,” Guardiola said.

Defender Ake was the unlikely match-winner after curling a low shot past goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Arsenal had chances while enjoying the better of the first half. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Leandro Trossard forced saves from City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, and Eddie Nketiah fired narrowly wide from close range.

The visitors were made to pay when City improved after the break and Ake produced the decisive strike.

“(I’m) really disappointed,” Arteta said. “We could have got much more out of the game. In the big moments in big matches you have to make the difference.”

While a place in the fifth round of the cup was at stake, it was impossible to ignore the wider context of a match between the teams who are the front-runners in the league race.

Arsenal have been in outstanding form, picking up 50 points after 19 games and playing with a confidence not seen since Arsene Wenger’s title-winning teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As if to underline the fact that the cup is neither team’s priority, Guardiola and Arteta left key players out of their lineups.

Guardiola benched Ederson, Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva.

Arteta left out Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, William Saliba, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Arsenal’s new signing, Trossard, was given his first start since joining from Brighton last week.

Despite the changes, Arsenal created the better chances in the first half but could not make them count.

City began to control the game after the break without creating many clear-cut openings until Ake broke the deadlock.

Substitute Alvarez’s strike from outside the box beat Turner, but came back off the post. Jack Grealish picked up the rebound and laid off to Ake, who hit a first-time effort low into the corner.

Elimination gives Arsenal one less distraction in its bid for the title and Arteta hopes to strengthen his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

The London club has been linked with a $74 million move for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, but Arteta would not answer specific questions about the player.

“We have been pretty active in the market. We have some necessities,” he said. “If something else is available, the club is willing to try to do it when it is reasonable and hopefully he’s a player that can improve our squad.”