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World Cup dismay for Qatar as Ecuador wins opening game

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(Last Updated On: November 21, 2022)

The large swathes of empty seats in the second half summed up the Qatar soccer team’s disappointing start to its first ever World Cup.

The night started with more than 67,000 mostly Qatari fans filling the cavernous Al Bayt Stadium, enjoying an opening ceremony that showcased the tiny Arab emirate to a global audience 12 years after winning the right to host soccer’s biggest event, Associated Press reported.

It ended with Qatar’s overmatched team trudging off the field, its unwanted place in soccer history secure and with many of its dismayed fans having long disappeared.

The controversy-laced tournament opened Sunday with the 2019 Asian Cup champions getting outplayed in a 2-0 loss to Ecuador, ensuring a host team lost its opening game for the first time at a World Cup.

“I would say we felt bad (for our supporters),” Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said. “I hope in the next game they will be prouder.”

Ecuador captain Enner Valencia scored both of his team’s goals in the first half of a one-sided game that wound up being a damage-limitation exercise for Qatar on one of the biggest nights in the nation’s history.

The match took place after a colorful 30-minute opening ceremony — fronted by Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman and attended by powerful dignitaries including Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — that promoted inclusivity and mankind living “under one tent.”

Qatar’s players, fresh from spending seven months together in a pre-tournament training camp under Sanchez, froze in front of an expectant crowd and a disciplined Ecuador team that might just pose a danger to more high-profile opponents over the next few weeks, AP reported.

“This is just the start of the World Cup,” said the 33-year-old Valencia, who has now scored Ecuador’s last five goals at the World Cup, including three in 2014. “We have to keep dreaming.”

In what might go down as one of the worst displays by a host nation to open a tournament, Qatar had five shots in the match and none of them were on target. The team had only two touches inside the opposition penalty area.

Put simply, Ecuador was just too good for a team only playing at the World Cup because it is the host.

“I wouldn’t say we were naïve,” Sanchez said. “I would say this was about nervousness … maybe we had too many doubts.”

Valencia thought he had scored in the third minute when he headed in from close range following an acrobatic cross from Felix Torres. After a video review of about two minutes, Ecuadorian celebrations were cut short when the goal was ruled out for a marginal offside.

Ecuador did take the lead, however, in the 16th minute when Valencia — running onto a through-ball — was tripped by Saad Alsheeb after rounding the goalkeeper, who was booked for the challenge. Valencia was nonchalant as he trotted up and converted the spot kick into the bottom corner.

The 33-year-old striker then added his second in the 33rd by heading in a right-wing cross from Angelo Preciado.

With Qatar’s passes often going astray and its defensive raggedness repeatedly exposed, Ecuador had no problem holding onto its lead as Sanchez stood helpless in his technical area and the home fans fell quiet.

Many didn’t return for the second half. And heading into the final quarter of the game, thousands of seats were empty.

It marked a huge contrast to a few hours earlier.

In a party-like atmosphere, camels and Arabian horses lined the entrance to the stadium, a Bedouin tent-inspired venue located in the rather isolated surrounds of the rural town of Al Khor, north of Doha.

And the seven-act opening ceremony lived up to its billing, the highlight being when Freeman extended one yellow-gloved hand to a FIFA World Cup ambassador suffering from a rare spinal disorder in an image representing inclusion in a country facing international criticism over its human-rights record, AP reported.

Looking on from the luxury seats were FIFA president Gianni Infantino alongside leaders from the Middle East and Africa. Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, drew a thunderous applause in a short speech delivered in Arabic from the suite, with Infantino and the monarch’s father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, on either side of him.

“I welcome you and good luck to all,” the emir said in his only words spoken in English.

After this display, Qatar will need more than just luck to avoid joining South Africa as being the only host nation to fail to get out of the group stage at the World Cup.

“We have to forget about the pressure and be more competitive,” Sanchez said. “We can do it.”

Sport

ILT20 introduces digital avatars of cricketers for fans

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(Last Updated On: February 3, 2023)

The DP World International League T20 has teamed up with Stars4U, to provide fans of the league digital avatars of their favorite players to share on social media.

The animated and talking avatars are available in the form of videos and greetings that fans can share with friends and family.

Some of the featured Stars4U avatars include: Sunil Narine, Moeen Ali, Joe Root, Alex Hales, James Vince, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell. These avatars will be available FREE for a limited period of time only.

The link to access your favorite DP World ILT20 cricketer’s avatar is https://app.ilt20stars4u.com

All the messages featuring Stars4U avatars have been approved by the DP World International League T20 as well as the players themselves and use the players’ actual voices.

Mubashshir Usmani, the General Secretary of Emirates Cricket Board said: “The league has huge ambitions and we are pleased to note that it is working with Stars4U to bring this digital-only product to the cricket fans. The opportunities are endless and the league is driven to add value for all cricket fans across the globe.”

Simon Brown CEO of Stars4U said: “This is a first-to-market for the sports industry and the DP World International League T20 has been so supportive. We have delivered an innovative launch at record speed. We are building a sustainable technology proposition that brings fans, clubs and brands closer to their heroes and are delighted to be working with the DP World International League T20 and all the franchise teams”.

The DP World ILT20 made its debut at the Dubai International Stadium on 13 January 2023. Some of the greatest cricketing superstars have made their way to the UAE to play in the inaugural edition of the league.

The tournament is currently being played in a 34-match format across the UAE’s exemplary, world-class cricket facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Franchise teams, comprising over 100 International and 24 UAE-based players, include Abu Dhabi Knight Riders (Knight Riders Group), Desert Vipers (Lancer Capital), Dubai Capitals (GMR), Gulf Giants (Adani Sportsline), MI Emirates (Reliance Industries), and Sharjah Warriors (Capri Global).

The avatars can be accessed here: https://app.ilt20stars4u.com

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Rashid Khan in top spot as best bowler in ICC T20 rankings for this week

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(Last Updated On: February 3, 2023)

In the latest update of the ICC’s ranking system, Rashid Khan moved into top sport in T20 bowling category, while fellow countryman Mohammad Nabi is in second spot as an all-rounder.

This week’s ranking put three Afghanistan players in the top 10 T20 bowling list – including Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who is in 8th position.

T20 batting section was devoid of Afghan players, but India’s Suryakumar Ashok Yadav, also known as SKY, is ranked top T20 batsman.

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Futsal fever on the horizon, thanks again to Ariana Television

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(Last Updated On: February 2, 2023)

Ariana Television Network is set to bring yet another exciting sports extravaganza into the homes of millions of loyal viewers; this time the upcoming Afghanistan Futsal Premier League (AFPL) which will start on February 15 and run through to March 9.

The second season of the AFPL will be produced and aired by Ariana Television in partnership with the Afghanistan Football Federation, which is the controlling body of futsal in the country, and games will be broadcast live, including the draw, which will take place on February 7.

This draw takes place at 7pm and will be broadcast live on Ariana Television.

The opening ceremony and the matches will also be broadcast live on February 15 starting at 3pm.

The Afghanistan Futsal Premier League will be held in league format and the player’s auction function will be held on February 7.

For the duration of the league, two matches will be held each day. Broadcasts will start at 3pm and run through to 8pm, and will include previews, the matches of the day and post-match discussions.

Ten teams will participate.

Futsal has become steadily more popular in Afghanistan, which is ranked 24 out of 36 on the Asian Football Confederation’s ranking index.

In January last year, 22 teams participated in the 15-day futsal competition which drew young talent from around the country.

This came on the back of significant developments in the sporting code, which continues to grow in the country.

During last year’s tournament, a number of futsal coaches said the skills of players in the country had improved vastly over the past few years and that tournaments of this nature were of particular importance to players.

For more details make sure to follow Ariana Television’s updates on its social media platforms or here, on Ariana News’ website.

CLICK HERE for the full broadcasting schedule

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