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Saudi Arabia to co-host 2030 World Cup with Italy

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Saudi Arabia is considering a joint bid for the 2030 World Cup with Italy, which is based over 2,000 miles away from the Gulf country, according to a report.

The bidding process for that edition of the biggest football tournament in the world is in its very early stages, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirming in March that the United Kingdom and Ireland want to ‘bring football home’ in the summer of 2030.

By that year, the World Cup will have expanded to 48 teams and 80 matches, meaning the tournament being held in more than one country is deemed as a more encouraging option for FIFA.

According to The Athletic, Saudi Arabia are teaming up with the US-based Boston Consultancy Group to explore a joint bid with several options, though Italy is the most likely candidate despite the huge distance between the nations.

The report says the Saudis have also been advised on a potential three-way hosting with Morocco and Egypt as part of a ‘MENA’ (Middle East and North Africa) bid, but the two other countries would need major infrastructure funding to host the World Cup.

Saudi Arabia’s influence on the sporting world has been growing in the past few years, after it watched neighbours Qatar win the hosting rights for next year’s World Cup. Critics have, however, repeatedly accused the Saudis of ‘sportswashing’ – spending huge money on hosting sporting events in a bid to boost the country’s reputation despite its poor record on human right.

Saudi Arabia has spent at least $1.5bn on high-profile international sporting events, according to report from human rights organisation Grant Liberty.

That includes hosting Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight boxing world title rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019 as well as a European Tour golf tournament featuring many of the game’s biggest names – the Saudi International – and the Dakar Rally.

The Saudis also hosted a Formula One grand prix this year for the first time, while the country’s sovereign wealth fund – the Public Investment Fund – made a failed £300million takeover bid for Newcastle United last year.

The Premier League failed to approve the bid due to concerns over the links between the fund and the Saudi state, which had the deal gone through would effectively have meant that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the owner of the club.

The buying consortium insisted that the PIF was separate from the state and, as revealed by Sportsmail, Bin Salman was so enraged that he warned the Prime Minister on June 27 last year that Anglo-Saudi relations would be damaged unless the buyout was approved.

Bin Salman approved and probably ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, according to a US intelligence report earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia and Italy have also joined forces in the sporting community in recent years, with the Gulf state hosting the last two Italian Super Cup finals – and will do so again this year.

Italy, who won this month’s Euro 2020 final by beating England in the final, also have the experience of hosting four major tournaments and while none of them have been in the last 30 years, they did host some of this summer’s European Championship matches.

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SPORTS

Tokyo Olympics: All Nigeria’s table tennis reps knocked out

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Africa’s highest-ranked player Quadri Aruna on Tuesday crashed out of the men’s singles event of the table tennis competition at the ongoing Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Aruna who reached the quarter-finals of the event at the Rio Games in 2016 could not go far this time around as he lost 2-4 in the third round.

He lost to Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium 15-13 9-11 6-11 11-7 7-11 6-11.

His exit has brought a sad end to Team Nigeria’s campaign in the sport at this Games.

His three teammates in the sport —— Funke Oshonaike, Offiong Edem, Olajide Omotayo —- have all been eliminated.

Nigeria did not qualify for the doubles events.

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John Terry leaves Aston Villa, reveals next plan

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Aston Villa assistant coach, John Terry, has announced his departure from the club.

Terry, in a statement via Aston Villa’s official website on Monday, also revealed his next plan.

The Chelsea legend had since been linked with vacancies at Bristol City and West Brom United.

Terry’s statement read in part, “It has been a tremendous honour and privilege to have spent these last three years at Aston Villa, but I feel now is the right time to make the extremely difficult decision to move on.

“My immediate plan is to spend some quality time with my family and, thereafter, hopefully, take up some invitations to visit clubs and managers around Europe to develop my aim and objective of becoming a manager.

“I’ll forever be indebted to the gaffer for giving me the opportunity to start my coaching career at such a wonderful club.

“Finally, I would also like to thank all the players and staff and wish them all the very best for the season ahead and say a huge thank you to the wonderful Aston Villa fans for their support.”

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Solskjaer opens up on Pogba rejecting new Man United contract to join PSG

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Manchester United boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has opened up on midfielder, Paul Pogba rejecting a new contract at the club in a bid to join Paris Saint-Germain.

Solskjaer also expressed confidence that Pogba will be part of his Man United squad next season.

He said this while reacting to reports that the France international has rejected a new deal at the club because he wants to join PSG.

Pogba, whose current deal with Man United will expire next summer, has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford to join PSG.

But Solskjaer has now described the report as ‘speculations’.

Asked if Pogba has rejected a contract and whether Man United will need to sell him, Solskjaer told reporters following the Red Devils’ pre-season 4-2 defeat against QPR on Saturday: “There are always speculations about Paul.

“The talks between the club and Paul’s representatives, I am not in the detail of every single one of them, so I have got nothing to say really about that.

Asked further on PSG’s interest in Pogba, Solskjaer continued: “There’s always speculation about Paul and there’s always clubs being interested.

“Of course, we have seen Paul at his best and Paul knows what we feel about it. And of course, I have enjoyed my time working with him and hopefully, we can work together. Let’s see what happens.”

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