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Saudi Arabia gears up to attract tens of thousands of World Cup fans

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The kingdom has offered multi-entry 60-day visas to holders of the World Cup’s Hayya pass, the compulsory permit available to ticket-holders.

Saudi Arabia is putting on 240 flights a week and easing overland travel to attract tens of thousands of football fans attending the World Cup in neighbouring Qatar, the kingdom’s tourism minister has said.

Weekly flights from Saudi to Qatar will soar to 240 during the month-long tournament, up from six normally, tourism minister Ahmed Al Khateeb said on Wednesday on the sidelines of an investor forum in Riyadh.

The efforts are intended to jumpstart the nascent tourism sector in the once closed-off kingdom, which only began issuing tourist visas in September 2019 – just months before the coronavirus pandemic decimated the industry globally.

With prices high and accommodation options limited in Doha, Qatar’s Gulf neighbours are expected to soak up an overflow of fans, organising more than 160 daily shuttle flights between them and relaxing visa requirements.

Saudi Arabia has offered multi-entry 60-day visas to holders of the World Cup’s Hayya pass, the compulsory permit available to ticket-holders.

READ MORE: What makes FIFA World Cup in Qatar unique?

Upgraded roads

For overland travellers, officials have upgraded roads from Riyadh and cities in eastern Saudi Arabia – which are closer to Qatar – to the border, Khateeb said.

They have also expanded petrol stations, internet connectivity and access to first aid and other medical services along the route, he said.

A newly launched 10-lane border crossing “doesn’t take you more than 10 minutes” to pass through, he added.

Facilitating cross-border travel could give ticket-holders a Saudi alternative to lodging in Doha, where more than one million fans are expected.

“I think we are ready when it comes to transportation, mobility, airlines, airports, borders, healthcare, telecommunications. We’re ready and excited,” Khateeb said.

“We can’t wait for the World Cup to start and we can’t wait to welcome our guests from all over the world.”

He added: “We are working with the (destination management companies) and the tour companies in Europe and Latin America and Asia, and we are expecting tens of thousands of packages to be sold.”

Saudi Arabia has set a goal of attracting 30 million foreign tourists annually by 2030, an element of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform agenda intended to diversify the oil-dependent economy and open up to the world.

READ MORE: FIFA World Cup host Qatar inaugurates massive solar power plant

READ MORE: Qatar emir denounces ‘unprecedented’ campaign against World Cup host

Source: TRTWorld

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Haaland scores five as Man City beat Luton for FA Cup quarters

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LONDON, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) — Erling Haaland scored five times as FA Cup holders Manchester City booked their place in the quarterfinals of the competition with a 6-2 win away to Luton Town.

Kevin de Bruyne showed his importance to Pep Guardiola’s side with assists for the goals after three, 18 and 40 minutes, before Jordan Clark showed Luton’s fighting spirit with goals in the 45th and 52nd minutes.

Haaland made it 4-2 almost immediately after another De Bruyne assist and then scored his fifth of the night in the 58th minute after a pass from Bernardo Silva.

Mateo Kovacic made it 6-2 with 18 minutes left to play and the only setback for City was a first-half injury suffered by Jack Grealish.

Bournemouth and Championship leaders Leicester City exchanged over 30 shots in 90 minutes, with both sides hitting the woodwork, but no goals after 90 minutes took the game into extra time.

Leicester booked their quarterfinal place thanks to Abdul Fatawu’s 25-meter thunderbolt in the 105th minute, and although Bournemouth keeper Mark Travers got a hand to it, he couldn’t keep it out.

Anthony Gordon gave Newcastle a 71st-minute lead away to Blackburn Rovers, but Sammie Szmodics leveled after Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had tipped a shot from Dilan Markanday onto the bar.

Extra time failed to produce any more goals and Dubravka was Newcastle’s hero with two saves in the penalty shootout as his side went through 4-3.

Wednesday’s matches see Chelsea at home to Leeds United, while Liverpool entertain Southampton, Wolverhampton face Brighton, and Nottingham Forest are at home to Manchester United.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Gov’t announces ongoing development of tennis complex in Hulhumale’

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Minister of Sports, Fitness, and Recreation Abdulla Rafiu has announced the ongoing development of a world-class tennis complex in Hulhumale’.

The complex will ne located near the synthetic athletics track in Hulhumale’. The project is being funded by Honorary President of the Tennis Association of Maldives Ahmed Nazeer, who laid the foundation stone in March last year.

Speaking to PSM News, Minister Rafiu expressed the significance of the complex in hosting top-tier tournaments, highlighting the government’s intervention with the Housing Development Corporation Limited (HDC) after a year of stagnation. He praised Honorary President Nazeer’s dedication to expediting the construction at his own expense, acknowledging his substantial contributions to the sport.

Additionally, Minister Rafiu addressed the challenge of Maldivian athletes transitioning from outdoor to indoor competitions. He also underscored the government’s commitment to establishing new sports complexes to mitigate the issue.

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s Week 14 Roadmap emphasises the development of sports facilities, particularly focusing on football and netball complexes. Land allocation for these projects has already been completed, with the netball complex slated for Hulhumale’ Phase I and the football complex for Hulhumale’ Phase II. The initiatives mark the inception of five stadium complexes in the Maldives, designed to accommodate various sporting events.

Source(s): PsmNews

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Real Madrid beat Sevilla, while Barca move second in La Liga

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MADRID, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) — Real Madrid beat Sevilla 1-0 in La Liga on Sunday night to move eight points clear of FC Barcelona and nine in front of Girona thanks to an 81st-minute goal from Luka Modric.

Modric fired home an unstoppable effort from outside the area to end stubborn resistance from the visitors, who had ex-Madrid captain Sergio Ramos at the heart of their much-improved defense.

Ramos received a homage from Real Madrid for his 671 matches at the club, before he and his Sevilla teammates went close to frustrating the fans in the Bernabeu.

Modric’s strike came after the ball had been only half-cleared, although Sevilla complained the original ball into their area had been aimed at Antonio Rudiger, who was in a clear offside position.

Both keepers made decent saves to keep the score at 0-0 until Modric’s goal.

FC Barcelona produced arguably their best performance this season to beat Getafe 4-0 on Saturday

Goals from Raphinha, Joao Felix, Frenkie de Jong and Fermin Lopez beat a below-par Getafe to move Barca ahead of Girona, who play on Monday.

Atletico Madrid, who were without the injured Antoine Griezmann, could only draw away to bottom-of-the-table Almeria, for whom Luka Romero scored spectacular brace to cancel out goals from Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul.

Athletic Bilbao, who play Atletico in the Copa del Rey semifinal on Thursday, were unable to take advantage of Atletico’s slip-up as they lost 3-1 away to Real Betis on a day when everything seemed to go wrong for them.

Chimy Avila put Betis ahead with his first goal for the club, and it was 2-0 when Unai Simon made a save only for the ball to rebound off Yuri Berchiche and end up in the net.

Nico Williams was then sent off for the visitors after sarcastically applauding the referee, and Yuri had to leave the pitch with a hamstring injury.

Gorka Guruzeta pulled a goal back for Athletic with a header in first-half injury time, but Johnny Cardoso’s 67th-minute shot made the points safe for Betis.

Osasuna and Las Palmas drew a mid-table match 1-1, with Unai Garcia opening the scoring for the home side with a 48th-minute volley, only for Kirian Rodriguez to smash home from just outside of the area in the 52nd minute to assure a point.

Darwin Machis scored a 99th-minute goal that saw Cadiz come back from 2-0 down at home to Celta Vigo to claim a point that maintains their chances of avoiding relegation.

Things looked grim for Cadiz when goals from Iago Aspas and Williot Swedberg made it 2-0 for the visitors, but Juanmi pulled a goal back with a smart finish and Machis saved a vital point in the ninth minute of added time following a corner.

Alaves and Mallorca drew 1-1 with a result that keeps the home side well clear of the relegation zone and leaves the visitors in trouble.

Carlos Benavidez headed Alaves in front after 75 minutes of a close match, but Matija Nastasic gave Mallorca a morale boost ahead of Tuesday’s Copa del Rey semifinal return leg when he nodded home an equalizer two minutes from time.

On Friday night, Santi Comesana scored twice as Villarreal won 3-1 away to Real Sociedad, with a goal from former Real Sociedad forward Alexander Sorloth rubbing salt in the wounds for the home side, who are dropping a lot of points at home.

The scheduled game between Granada and Valencia was postponed because of a fire in Valencia on Thursday which claimed 10 lives.

Source(s): Xinhua

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