Archive for category Sports

In Qatar, migrant workers paid to be sports ‘fans’

December 17, 2014

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The men grappled with each other to board the quickly filling bus. Others wriggled in through the windows, scaling the outside, using the large wheels as footholds and leaving scuff-marks on the white exterior with their shoes.

These weren’t refugees fleeing disaster. They were migrant workers in 2022 World Cup host Qatar, fighting to earn a few dollars. The job: Pretend to be a sports fan. Qataris boast they’re mad for sports. The ruling emir of the oil-and-gas rich Gulf nation is so fond of football he bought Paris Saint-Germain, now France’s powerhouse team. Lobbying World Cup organizer FIFA in 2010, his royal mother said: “For us, football is not just a mere game or a sport among many. It is THE sport.”

Pitching successfully in November to track and field’s governing body to host its world championships in 2019, Qatar bid presenter Aphrodite Moschoudi said: “Qatar has a true passion for sports. Everything in our country revolves around sport.”

Or, when passion is lacking, around money. When the world’s second-richest people per capita can’t find time or be bothered to fill their sports arenas, migrant workers are paid to take their place. Thirty Qatar riyals — equivalent to $8 — won’t buy a beer in the luxury waterside hotel in Doha, the capital, where Qatari movers-and-shakers unwind. But for this pittance, workers from Africa and Asia sprint under blinding sun in the Doha industrial zone where they’re housed and surround a still-moving bus like bees on honey. They sit through volleyball, handball and football, applaud to order, do the wave with no enthusiasm and even dress up in white robes and head-scarves as Qataris, to plump up “home” crowds.

The Associated Press squeezed aboard one of three buses that ferried about 150 workers, through dense traffic of luxury cars and past luxury villas they’ll never be able to afford, to be fake fans at the Qatar Open of international beach volleyball in November.

The FIVB, volleyball’s governing body, trumpeted on its website that the tournament, part of its World Tour, “brought out the crowds.” But migrants from Ghana, Kenya, Nepal and elsewhere, who work in Qatar as bus and taxi drivers for the state-owned transport company and for other employers, told the AP they were there for money, not volleyball.

Word of payment filtered around their crowded dormitories. At 2:30 p.m., clumps of men on their off-day gathered outside, inhaling dust stirred up by passing forklifts and trucks. Someone spotted the first bus far down the street that cuts through the bleak-scape of construction and piled dirt. The bus filled instantly. A second and third bus — and more frantic scrambling — followed.

Breathing heavily, men squeezed into seats, three on one side of the aisle, two on the other. There were no safety belts and the ceiling fans didn’t turn. One man without a seat squatted on the floor. To shouts of “get down!” he made himself small when a policeman was spotted on the journey.

One by one, from memory, the men reeled off their employee numbers — no names — to a man who methodically shuffled down the aisle, jotting down the details on a crumpled piece of paper. This ensured he’d later know who to pay, workers said.

At the Al Gharafa Sports Club, we disembarked and formed a line. An official in Qatari robes counted us in, with taps on the shoulder. French volleyballers Edouard Rowlandson and Youssef Krou were winning their bronze-medal match as we filled seats, making the arena appear almost full.

“Bizarre,” Rowlandson said when told of the hired spectators. “But we prefer that to playing in front of nobody.” Ahmed al-Sheebani, executive secretary of the Qatar Volleyball Association, rebuffed the AP’s questions, reaching over to switch off this reporter’s voice recorder.

Reached later by phone, FIVB media director Richard Baker thanked the AP for making it aware of the fake fans and said the federation will “seek clarification” from Qatari organizers. “It’s news to us,” he said.

But not to Qatar’s government. A survey of 1,079 Qatar residents published this January by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics suggested that paid fans may be turning Qataris off sport. The ministry said two-thirds of Qataris surveyed did not attend any football matches during the previous season and two-thirds of respondents cited “the spread of paid fans” as a “significant reason” keeping audiences away.

At the volleyball, some for-hire spectators were offered less than others. Security guards and office boys from Kenya said a promise of 20 riyals ($5.50) each drew 40 people onto their bus. A Nigerian manservant said he, too, was getting just 20.

Numerous workers said they regularly make up numbers at sports events. Qatar league football games pay 20 or 25 riyals, they said. A Kenyan said he made 50 riyals at handball. An added bonus: the volleyball arena had free Wi-Fi, allowing workers to get news and emails from home. They pulled out smartphones, ignoring a crowd organizer waving a plastic hand who urged them to clap to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

Thirty riyals buys food for three days when you’re eating just once a day to save money for families back home, workers said. And watching sports, some said, is less tedious than whiling away off-duty hours in Doha’s back-of-beyond industrial zone.

“Shaking my body all over … being in the crowd and shouting and dancing” was great fun for Adu, a trainee bus driver from Ghana who gave just his first name. “Being there and getting paid is a plus for me.”

Afterward, the transport company workers waited nearly three hours in the dark, on barren land near the arena, for return buses. Contacted separately later by phone, three of them confirmed they got 30 riyals each in cash, either on the bus back or in their dormitories.

On an hourly basis, that came out at just over $1 per hour.

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Tickets go on sale for UAE’s FIFA U-17 World Cup

By Salma Awwad

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tickets for the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013, which will be the biggest football event ever staged in the Middle East when it begins on October 17, went on sale on Thursday, officials said.

The fifteenth FIFA U-17 World Cup, which takes place from October 17 to November 8, is the largest football event ever held in the emirates and one of the world’s biggest international tournaments.

This is first year the UAE has won the bid to host the event, after the United States failed to qualify, despite appearing in all fourteen previous tournaments.

This biennial FIFA tournament has catapulted many of today’s football stars to fame, such as Ronaldinho from Brazil, Luis Figo from Portugal and Italy’s Del Piero.

“I am looking forward to seeing huge support for the tournament across the UAE. Fans around the world should secure their match tickets and get behind their team! This tournament has been the birthplace for many of the legends we see in the game today, so we can definitely expect to see some spectacular football,” said Emirati footballer Omar Abdulrahman, who was named ‘Player of the Year’ at the recent end of season awards and has been appointed the official tournament ambassador.

“This is a region that is crazy about football and with the best 24 U-17 teams in the world finally coming together to compete for the trophy, I am confident that tickets will sell fast,” said the 21-year old player.

Less than four months are left until the first day of 52 matches begins.

The tournament will be played across five of the Emirates of the UAE, over a three week period in six of the UAE’s top stadiums – Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Emirates Stadium in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah Stadium in Fujairah, Sharjah Stadium in Sharjah, Rashid Stadium in Dubai and Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain.

FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 Qualified Nations are: Japan, Iran, Iraq, Uzbekistan, UAE, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Canada, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Uruguay.

Dubai has committed to hosting various youth events in the future including the fourth International Swimming Federation (FINA) world junior swimming competition in August this year and the 2014 men’s Under-17 Basketball World Championship (FIBA).

Tickets can be bought on FIFA’s official website and start from AED35 ($9.52). The FIFA U-17 world Cup UAE 2013 Official Draw will take place on August 26, when single match tickets will also go on sale.

Source: Arabian Business.


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Iraq stunner at U-20 World Cup

27 June 2013-PA Sport

Iraq accounted for Egypt to go top of Group E at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey as England and Chile drew.

Iraq’s 2-1 win over Egypt left the Pharaohs on the brink of an early exit after successive defeats.

Mohanad Abdulraheem scored a 79th winner as Hakeem Shaker’s side came from behind at Antalya’s Akdeniz University Stadium to move ahead of Chile on goals scored.

Hassan Ahmed gave Egypt a 27th minute lead before Amar Abdulhussein equalised on 33 minutes.

England’s hopes are hanging by a thread after a second-half effort from Harry Kane salvaged a 1-1 draw against Chile.

Peter Taylor’s men appeared to be heading for a defeat that would have been fatal after Nicolas Castillo put the South American side ahead from the penalty spot.

But Kane replied midway through the second half to secure another draw after the 2-2 weekend result against Iraq.

It means England, which have not won in 17 Finals matches in this competition, will now almost certainly need to break that horrendous sequence in its final match against Egypt in Bursa to reach the last 16.

In Group F, Uzbekistan and Croatia shared the spoils in Bursa to move to four points.

Sardor Rakhmanov opened the scoring for Akhmadjan Musaev’s team, in what was the first ever meeting between these teams, but Marko Livaja found a second-half equalizer.

Uruguay got its campaign up and running with a 2-0 victory over New Zealand.

Giorgian De Arrascaeta (fourth) and Nicolas Lopez (75th) got Uruguay’s goals to secure its first points for the tournament after a first up loss to Croatia.

The defeat sees New Zealand goalless and pointless after two games.

Source: The World Game.


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Iran wins at S.Korea, both teams qualify for WCup

By JOHN DUERDEN, Associated Press

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

ULSAN, South Korea (AP) — Iran beat South Korea 1-0 on Tuesday in a match that secured both teams a spot at next year’s World Cup, though the Asian hosts only just scraped through and had to wait until after the final whistle to know their fate.

Iran finished top of Group A in the final stage of Asian qualifying, with South Korea in second place – level on points with Uzbekistan but ahead on goal difference.

Uzbekistan came from behind to win 5-1 at home against Qatar. However, the storming finish ultimately came up just short, leaving the Uzbeks with a goal difference of plus-five and South Korea on plus-six.

Iran’s winner came in the 60th minute, when Kim Young-gwon failed to clear a speculative ball forward down Iran’s right wing. Reza Ghoochannejad robbed him of possession, sprinted clear and sent a curling left-foot shot beyond goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryeong.

South Korea, not wanting to put its fate in the hands of the game in Uzbekistan, pressed forward for the remainder of the game but failed to find an equalizer.

Kim almost made up for his mistake, but his close-range shot in the 86th minute produced a reflex save from keeper Rahman Ahmadi and Jang Hyun-soo’s follow-up effort was also blocked.

“My team played with a realistic approach, to try and wait for a weak point in the Korean team and with a counter-attacking attitude,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said.

“The goal came in one of those situations and fortunately, when Korea created opportunities, our players fought for our lives. The team played with fantastic team spirit with great practical discipline and enormous determination.”

The win set off celebrations across Iran, where the government had given a rare approval for supporters to spill into the streets. Outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and president-elect Hasan Rowhani in separate messages congratulated the team for reaching the World Cup.

As Iran players and officials celebrated wildly on the pitch, the South Korean squad and fans were kept in suspense while the last couple of minutes of the Uzbekistan game were played out, before they knew they were also through to next year’s tournament in Brazil.

“We qualified but didn’t finish with a satisfactory result,” said outgoing coach Choi Kang-hee. “Today was a disappointing defeat but the players gave their best and I wish them luck in Brazil.”

South Korea, missing a number of European-based stars, dominated the first half and despite going close through Son Heung-min and Lee Myung-joo, were unable to break down a well-drilled Iranian backline.

Son, who recently joined German team Bayer Leverkusen for 10 million euros, shot over from close range while Lee broke free of the Iran defenders but was unable to dribble around the goalkeeper.

After Iran’s successful smash-and-grab goal in the 60th, South Korea’s players were made aware Uzbekistan was rapidly closing the goal-difference gap, so pushed forward relentlessly in search of an equalizer.

Though it never came, South Korea had done enough in earlier games to secure an eighth-straight World Cup appearance.

Iran’s berth in Brazil will be its fourth appearance at football’s main event, having last reached the final tournament in Germany in 2006.

Source: Westport News.


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Saudis Split on Female Olympians, Athletic Hijabs

Written by Richard S. Willis
Thursday, August 02, 2012

Women otherwise involved in rights issues don’t necessarily support Olympic participation

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – In this bustling, overcrowded city on the Red Sea, the 2012 London Olympics hardly raises an eyebrow although seventeen men and two women are participating. But the debate over whether Saudi Arabia’s two female athletes – Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani – should compete, let alone abandon the hijab head covering to conform to the Olympic International Conference’s rules, is unsurprisingly divided along gender lines.

The debate has been reduced to name-calling with a number of Saudis describing Attar and Shaherkani the “prostitutes of the Olympics.” It has highlighted the ongoing issues regarding a woman’s place in Saudi society.

“There are not many Saudi fathers and brothers who want to see the women in their family compete on a pitch or in an arena with thousands of men staring at them,” Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, an unemployed car salesman told The Media Line. “What does that say about the woman who exposes herself in such a way?”

Attar, 19, who is attending Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, is competing in the women’s track 800 meters. Shaherkani, 16, is participating in the women’s judo event. Shaherkani garnered the most attention since the opening day of the Olympics when the International Judo Federation banned Shaherkani from competing because her hijab posed a safety risk. Following negotiations between Shaherkani’s father, the OIC and the federation, the federation ruled the girl may participate wearing “suitable headgear.”

Wearing the hijab was an issue taken out of Shaherkani’s hands. The Saudi government made it clear that women can compete only if they “wear suitable clothing that complies with Sharia (Islamic law), are accompanied by their guardian and they do not mix with men during the games.”

However, the hijab controversy, while seized by women’s rights activists as another infringement on Saudi female athletes, prompted little outcry among women in Saudi Arabia. Rather, the issue boils down to what is appropriate behavior.

Abeer Al-Hussaini received her bachelor’s degree from a Florida university. The 26-year old wears her hijab loosely and considers herself liberal on social issues. Yet, she says her advocacy for women in Saudi society has its limits. “I wish the girls in the Olympics well, but it’s not something I would do. And even if I did, my father would not even consider it. There is too much at stake. Even if my family supported my right to compete in sports, our relatives, our neighbors would condemn it. There is too much at stake. It just does not affect me but my entire family.”

Indeed social pressure is immense to toe the line. While societal pressure provides checks and balances to ensure conformity and stability, the burden usually falls on women.

A woman lecturer at Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University outside of Riyadh, told The Media Line that traditions and customs are so entrenched in Saudi society that few women have the strength to break the bonds that establish their roles in society.

“Forget about Islam,” said the academic who spoke on the condition that her name not be published. “The traditional roles of men and women are clearly defined with men providing the financial means for the family and women providing babies and a nice home. That’s changing with better educational opportunities for women and new jobs for them.”

However, she noted that women drawing attention to themselves is a “red line” that few Saudi women are willing to cross.

“It’s almost incomprehensible to the average Saudi to see a beloved daughter on television parading on the field for all to see,” she said. “It is too much for family members to see their daughters exerting themselves in some outfit even remotely form-fitting. It is a big shame for the family. As hard as it is to understand, it boils down to ‘what will the neighbors think’ ”

What the neighbors think is found on social media websites. In addition to labeling Saudi female athletes as prostitutes, one Twitter writer suggested that Attar would purposely fall down while running to show off her body.

Many Saudis, however, were quick to defend the athletes. @SkittlesFairy responded to a critic by writing, “You remind me of Europe in the Dark Ages, you insult this and slur people in the name of religion. This religion has nothing to do with you.”

Saudi Rasha Al-Dowasi, tweeting as @Rsha_D, wrote, “Muslim athletes from Muslim countries have been participating in the Olympics for years. Sport only becomes prostitution when Saudi women practice it.”

Khalid Khalifa, who describes himself as a Saudi comedian on his Twitter profile as @KhalidKhalifa, wrote, “The person who made this Hashtag (“Prostitutes of the Olympics”) is a reminder: idiots still exist. He/She should be neutered. This gene cannot evolve.”

The Princess Nora University academic cautioned against taking Twitter flame wars as an accurate pulse of Saudis.

“Most Saudis have never left the GCC (the Gulf Cooperation Council countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates), or even Saudi Arabia,” the academic said. “They don’t read or watch the Western media; they don’t tweet, watch the Olympics or even think about the women’s rights in the same context as Westerners do. There is a right and wrong. And displaying your body immodestly is wrong.”

Summer Khoury, a Palestinian expatriate who works for a charity organization in Jeddah, told The Media Line that she wants to see more Arab women represented in the Olympics, but understands Saudis’ trepidation with women’s participation.

“Things here in Saudi Arabia are moving very fast,” Khoury said. “There is an explosion of women working in the shops and malls, and even mixing with men. It was unheard of just a few years ago. When society shifts so rapidly, you have people lash out crudely. But it’s just the process how a society evolves.”

Copyright © 2012 The Media Line. All Rights Reserved.

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Analysis: Qatar building boom bets on life after World Cup

By Jason Benham and Praveen Menon
Wed Jun 29, 2011



(Reuters) – As Qatar rushes to prepare for the 2022 World Cup, the tiny Gulf Arab state is spending billions to build stadiums, roads, bridges, apartments and hotels on a patch of desert jutting out into the Gulf’s waters.



Like cities hosting the Olympic Games, which face the risk of being left with unused venues after the athletes and spectators leave, Qatar is betting that it can accelerate its transformation as a financial and tourism destination to absorb the extra capacity.



It will have to compete with the emirate of Dubai, just up the coast, which also created a glittering seaside desert city on the “build-and-they-will-come” model over the past decade — only to see a property and asset bubble crash in 2008 and 2009, leaving it with hundreds of empty buildings.



“They have to plan what to with it after the event,” said Ziad Makhzoumi, chief financial officer at Dubai builder Arabtec ARTC.DU. “They are trying to design what is practical for later.”



On the plus side, Dubai is on the mend, albeit slowly, and both destinations are wealthy enough to invest for the long term. Both are also reachable from nearly every major city on earth via long-haul flights, making them a natural global hub for trade, finance and tourism.



Goldman Sachs estimates that Qatar, flush with cash, will spend around $65 billion to prepare for the World Cup, when some 500,000 fans will descend on a country of just 1.7 million people, of whom 80 percent are expatriates.



Dozens of cranes line the dusty expanse stretching across Doha’s seaside corniche walkway, far fewer than the hundreds that dotted Dubai’s skyline at the peak of its construction boom in 2008.



Doha now boasts architectural designs rivaling that of its flamboyant neighbor, such as the al-Bidda Tower — a 215-meter-high (705 feet) twisting commercial building. Like Dubai, it is becoming an architect’s playground, thanks to clients with deep pockets and bold ambitions who helped build grand edifices in Dubai such as Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.



“They (Qatar) have to differentiate between building infrastructure useful for a city and building white elephants, as we saw in Dubai,” said Majed Azzam, senior real estate analyst at Dubai-based research firm AlembicHC. “At the end of the day the World Cup and the expansion around it is something Qatar is doing for its pride, to put the country on the map.



“Definitely there will be excesses.”



Arabtec, one of Burj Khalifa’s builders, is also one of several Gulf Arab contractors who are looking to snap up contracts ahead of the competition — more than a decade away — as Qatar builds $36 billion rail network, an $11 billion new airport and a $5.5 billion new deep water seaport over the next five years.



Billions more will be spent on 12 air-conditioned soccer stadiums, boosting the need for additional power capacity in a country where temperatures can soar above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in the summer, when the World Cup is usually held.



Qatar’s expenditure on public projects has more than tripled over the last five years to 58 billion riyals ($16 billion) which the OPEC member plans to spend in the current business year from April.



Another Dubai-based construction firm, Al Habtoor Leighton, an affiliate of Australia’s Leighton Holdings (LEI.AX), may pitch for tenders on tunneling, track work and stations for the $35 billion railway and metro project.



The rail network will be one of the first in the region. Hoping to connect their urban centers more efficiently, an ambitious billion-dollar rail system is now being planned to connect the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.






Qatar is likely to try to claim a share of the millions of tourists flocking to neighboring Dubai, which markets itself as a tourist heaven in the region and has attracted over 1.8 million visitors in just the first quarter of this year.



Qatar had 9,574 rooms available at the end of 2010 and the number of hotels is expected to increase ten-fold over the next decade, leading to likely hotel oversupply, according to Shakeel Sarwar, head of asset management at Securities & Investment Co in Bahrain.



“Based on the discussion we had with some real estate companies, a portion of hotel supply would be designed in such a way that they can be used later as serviced apartments once the event is finished,” he said.



The completion of a $3 billion, 40 km (25 mile) causeway linking Qatar to Bahrain ahead of the World Cup would also make it easier to commute between Manama and Doha, enabling tourists to use facilities in Bahrain, he added.



The Gulf state is also planning to use a cruise ship as accommodation for the event.



“The government agencies, property developers and the entire business sector is aware that the tournament is an investment,” said Ali bin Abdulatif al-Misnad, treasurer at the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry.



Another potential opportunity is to turn Doha into a meeting and conference hub, an ambition also held by Dubai.



Qatar Tourism Authority is focusing on promoting Qatar as a destination for meetings, conventions and exhibitions in the Gulf Arab region and last year launched its “48 Hours in Qatar” campaign to encourage visitors to extend their stays.



Looking to capture the rush of top executives and corporates expected to travel to Doha ahead of the World Cup, St. Regis Doha is planning a luxury hotel with 336 rooms that boast a personal butler service for each guest.



“We are not just looking at the month of the tournament,” said Tareq Derbas, general manager of St. Regis Doha.



“What is more important is what comes before and after the World Cup. We will definitely be busy before … hopefully we will be busy after it too.”



(Additional reporting by Regan E. Doherty; Editing by Reed Stevenson and Mark Trevelyan)



Source: Reuters.

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