Qatar is now planning for a “complete normal” World Cup in 2022 after the rapid progress in producing vaccines for the coronavirus, the tournament CEO told the Associated Press on Sunday ahead of the European qualifying draw. Early in the pandemic that forced the cancelation of the European Championship and Olympics this year, Qatar was concerned about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the first World Cup to be staged in the Middle East. “The introduction of the vaccine and the rollout of the vaccine, it’s definitely good news for everybody,” 2022 World Cup chief executive Nasser Al-Khater said. “We’re very hopeful and very looking forward that, by 2022, hopefully things will really be back to complete normal and looking forward to hosting the fans and having a normal and successful World Cup.” European nations on Monday will discover their path to securing one of 13 spots in the tournament when the qualifying draw is staged at FIFA headquarters in Zurich. The pandemic has prevented the event being staged in the host nation as would usually happen before a World Cup . . . Fans of Premier League title challengers Liverpool and Tottenham had waited since March to watch their teams win from the stands. They weren’t disappointed Sunday. Spurs supporters — a maximum of 2,000 under coronavirus restrictions, and no away fans — were treated to a 2-0 win over fierce north London rival Arsenal. It was the first Tottenham home game since fans were allowed back in stadiums in England. The 2,000 fans at Liverpool’s Anfield home belted out the first rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the stadium since the pandemic interrupted the previous season in March. Liverpool responded with a 4-0 win over Wolverhampton to stay tied with league leader Tottenham on points.
Ivey, BC ruin UMass Lowell’s opener
Freshman Kaylah Ivey scored a career-high 23 points as the Boston College women’s team remained undefeated with an 88-38 win over visiting UMass Lowell. Sophomore Jaelyn Batts also had a career day, recording 15 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles (4-0). Kharis Idom led the River Hawks (0-1) with 11 points . . . The top-ranked Gonzaga men’s team paused competition through Dec. 14 because of COVID-19. On Saturday in Indianapolis, less than 90 minutes before the scheduled tip-off against No. 2 Baylor, the game was called off because of two positive COVID-19 tests in the Bulldogs’ program. Gonzaga last played Wednesday night in Indianapolis, beating No. 11 West Virginia to improve to 3-0 . . . Ohio went on a 40-0 scoring run, spanning halftime, to set a NCAA record for a game involving two Division 1 men’s basketball teams as the Bobcats beat Cleveland State, 101-46, in Athens, Ohio. Lunden McDay closed the first half with a 3-pointer as Ohio (3-1) scored the final 5 points for a 51-25 lead. Ohio then opened the second half by scoring the first 35 points — with 3-pointers from four players. Cleveland State (0-2) missed 17 straight shots during the run. The Vikings ended their scoring drought on a free throw with 8:03 left, and didn’t make its first field goal of the second half until the 5:10 mark. According to the NCAA record book, Oklahoma scored 39 straight points in a first-half run against Weber State on Dec. 22, 2014 . . . The DePaul at Iowa State men’s basketball game scheduled for Sunday was canceled under guidelines for COVID-19 protocols in the Blue Demons’ program. DePaul has yet to play this season. It has had five games either canceled or postponed.
Alabama stands its ground in Top 25
Alabama was voted No. 1 for the fifth week in a row and extended its streak of consecutive poll appearances to 210, the third longest in the history of the Associated Press college football poll. The Crimson Tide were the unanimous No. 1 for the third straight week and the top seven teams were unchanged for a fifth consecutive poll. Notre Dame was No. 2, followed by Ohio State, Clemson, Texas A&M, Florida, and Cincinnati. BYU was the only top-10 team to lose, falling in a thriller at Coastal Carolina on Saturday. The Cougars dropped six spots to No. 14 and the Chanticleers jumped three spots to No. 11 . . . South Carolina has made it official, hiring ex-assistant Shane Beamer as its head coach. Beamer, 43, came to campus on Sunday alongside athletic director Ray Tanner and was introduced to the team after spending the past three seasons as assistant head coach and tight ends coach at Oklahoma. The son of longtime Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer takes over for Will Muschamp, who was fired last month with three games left in the season. The Gamecocks (2-8) finished their season with a sixth consecutive loss, 41-18, at Kentucky on Saturday. Soon after that, word spread that Beamer was South Carolina’s choice to replace Muschamp. Tanner, the AD since 2012, called Beamer the “perfect fit” to lead the Gamecocks, who have gone 6-16 overall and 5-15 in the Southeastern Conference the past two seasons. Beamer spent four seasons as a South Carolina assistant under Steve Spurrier from 2007-10 . . . South Alabama has fired coach Steve Campbell a day after a 29-0 loss to rival Troy. Campbell went 9-26 in three seasons at South Alabama . . . Texas said all football team activities have been paused after three players and two staff members tested positive for the coronavirus after getting home from a 69-31 win at Kansas State. The players and staff were not identified. Texas said all of them tested negative Friday and went to the game. All will be tested again Monday and Tuesday before the program will determine when team activities can resume.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. to take on YouTube star
Floyd Mayweather Jr., who hasn’t fought since 2017, announced via Instagram that he will fight YouTube star Logan Paul in an exhibition bout Feb. 20. Mayweather, 43, is regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time (50-0, 27 KOs), but he retired after beating Conor McGregor in 2017. Paul, 25, has just one pro bout, when he lost to British rapper KSI in a split decision last year. Mayweather is also good at making money, as Forbes judged him to have made $915 million last decade — $115 million more than any other athlete . . . Errol Spence Jr. skipped a tune-up in his first fight since a car crash that almost derailed his promising boxing career and defended his WBC and IBF welterweight championships Saturday night in Arlington, Texas. Spence, 30, looking sharp in a unanimous decision over Danny Garcia on Saturday night by controlling the pace almost from the start. Spence’s third defense in his hometown came 14 months after a high-speed crash near downtown Dallas, where he flipped his Ferrari and was ejected but escaped without serious injuries in October 2019. Spence (27-0, 21 knockouts) was charged with drunken driving. Garcia (36-3) lost for the third time in six fights. The crowd of 16,102 was considered a sellout in the pandemic. It filled about 20 percent of AT&T Stadium’s 80,000-seat capacity, with fans spread through all four decks and spacing between a few hundred pairs of chairs at ring level.
Merrimack turns back UMass men’s hockey
Patrick Holway scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period and Zachary Borgiel made 17 saves as Merrimack (1-1-0) held off UMass (2-3-1) in men’s college hockey play in North Andover . . . Sergio Perez waited 190 races to finally stand on the podium as a Formula One winner and end a 50-year wait of its own for Mexico. Perez’s win at a chaotic Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain was the first by a Mexican since Pedro Rodriguez won the Belgian GP in June 1970. He died one year later, at age 31, in a race. Perez finished 10.5 seconds ahead of Renault’s Esteban Ocon and 11.9 clear of teammate Lance Stroll . . . Mick Schumacher celebrated his impending move into Formula One by clinching the F2 title. He is the son of F1 great Michael Schumacher, who won seven F1 titles and 91 races in a glittering career. The 21-year-old German driver sounded emotional moments after crossing the line at the season-ending race in Bahrain. “I have no words,” he said. “Truly amazing.” His first race in F1 will be with the Haas team next year . . . The Portland Trail Blazers have closed their facility for deep cleaning after three positive COVID-19 tests came back in a span of four days. Sunday was to have been the first full day of training camp for the Blazers. They, along with all other NBA teams, began having players back in their facility for individual workouts last week . . . Dennis Ralston, a five-time Grand Slam doubles champion who was one of the initial players signed to the professional World Championship Tennis tour in the 1960s and a member of the sport’s Hall of Fame, died Sunday. He was 78. He died of cancer in Austin, Texas, according to Darin Pleasant, director of tennis at Grey Rock Tennis Club, who spoke to Ralston’s wife, Linda. As a singles player, Ralston lost to Spain’s Manuel Santana in three sets in the 1966 Wimbledon final. He reached the semifinals at the 1960 US national championships and the 1970 Australian Open. He was considered the highest-ranked American player for three years in the 1960s, long before the sport’s computerized rankings system began. But Ralston found his greatest success in doubles. He paired with Rafael Osuna of Mexico to win Wimbledon in 1960 as a 17-year-old. He and fellow American Chuck McKinley won titles at the US national championships in 1961, ’63, and ’64. Ralston teamed with American Clark Graebner to win the 1966 French championships on clay. Ralston was one of the so-called Handsome Eight who signed on with the WCT tour in 1967, along with John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Cliff Drysdale, Earl Buchholtz, Niki Pilic, Roger Taylor, and Pierre Barthes. The circuit began the following year and lasted until the emergence of the current ATP Tour in 1990.