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World Cup start in Qatar brought forward to November 20: sources

#World #Cup #start #Qatar #brought #November #sources

The start of the World Cup will be brought forward a day to allow hosts Qatar to play the opening game, sources told AFP on Wednesday, just over three months before the start of the competition.

Qatar will now play Ecuador on November 20, 24 hours ahead of schedule, a move that FIFA’s governing council should soon confirm, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

The change will see the tournament, which has been postponed to November/December to escape the Gulf country’s scorching summer heat, stick to its tradition of the hosts playing the opening game.

Senegal and the Netherlands were due to play the first game on November 21, followed by England versus Iran and the official opening game, Qatar’s World Cup debut, that evening.

“There have been discussions and agreements between the two respective teams and there has been a request from CONMEBOL – the South American federation,” a World Cup source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity as no official decision was announced.

“We wanted to follow the tradition that either the reigning champions or the host country are involved in the opening game,” added the source.

FIFA and the Qatar Organizing Committee declined to comment on the change to the mega-event, which ends on December 18.

But another tournament source said measures were being taken to help fans with tickets for the November 21 game.

“Each incident is treated so the impact is minimal,” the source told AFP.

As part of the change, the Netherlands vs. Senegal Group A game would be rescheduled from 13:00 (1000 GMT) on November 21 to 19:00. “It’s a better place for both teams for television and other areas,” said the World Cup source.

England’s Group B game against Iran remains unchanged.

– 100 day countdown –

Companies with major deals related to the soccer World Cup expressed confidence that the unusual change in dates could be handled smoothly.

“We will look into that,” said Jaime Byrom, chairman of Match Hospitality, which has a deal with FIFA to organize hospitality packages for World Cup matches and has secured 450,000 tickets to the tournament.

“It’s really not a particularly big problem compared to the other challenges we could have faced or have faced in the past,” Byrom told AFP.

“We need to focus on the customers who are most affected and I think in that case we will look after our Ecuadorian customers who are traveling from abroad and make sure they are on time for the game.”

The opening match is set to be played at the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium, one of seven new venues built specifically for the tournament since Qatar controversially won the World Cup in 2010.

The wealthy Gulf state is preparing a spectacular opening ceremony at the stadium, whose structure was inspired by traditional Arabian tents.

The postponement of the opening game also means a change in the 100-day countdown, which was due to start on Saturday, with special events happening in the tiny nation of 2.8 million.

After a dispute over the bidding process, Qatar has been criticized for labor rights and its treatment of the LGBTQ community. But FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said the tiny, gas-rich state will host the “best” World Cup ever.

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