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Peek Inside a $200-a-Night ‘Room’ at the World Cup in Qatar

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DOHA, Qatar — After Sheng Xie, a 33-year-old soccer fan from Vancouver, booked his flight to the World Cup, he went searching for accommodations.

Using the official tournament website, he quickly settled on a relatively affordable place called Fan Village. The room pictured looked functional and clean. There were two twin beds, Wi-Fi, air conditioning and a refrigerator, all for about $200 a night.

He did not realize it was, essentially, inside a shipping container.

“What did I book?” Xie asked himself in recent weeks, as he began to see photos on social media of his accommodations under construction.

What he found when he arrived was a sea of colorful metal boxes, lined side by side in neat rows, lettered and numbered, stretching about as far as he could see. His container/trailer was one of thousands hastily set up in a dirt field near the airport. Workers said there were 4,000 of them. A map at the entrance showed plans for more than 7,500, plus a section set aside for employees. It was like a one-story Lego town.

And down the well-lit acres of artificial turf laid atop the pebbly soil, past the giant tent that serves as a dining hall and the big box that houses a grocery store, and all the little boxes that sell food or coffee or pharmaceuticals or fan gear, and not far from the outdoor gym and the soccer-field sized spaces where people can gather to watch soccer matches on a big screen, Xie found his room, in section E8, behind a metal door.

Inside, it looked just like the picture. The air conditioning kept it cool enough and the Wifi worked. There were two small windows to let in a little light. He was relieved to know that the doors locked.

Tuesday night was his fifth night. Would he book it again?

Xie considered. He had just suggested that his chosen accommodations might provide a worthy template for housing the homeless in places like the United States and Canada, hardly a strong endorsement for a vacation setting.

“I’d probably say yes,” he said.

Qatar has a population of only about 3 million people, and fans from around the world jamming into Doha’s World Cup stadiums for four games a day have to stay somewhere. Most found hotels, and Doha offers a bevy of fancy brands. Others booked spots on one of a few docked cruise ships brought in for the occasion.

For many fans, though — particularly the more adventurous or frugal among them — the somewhere that they found is in a field that feels mostly like nowhere.

Qatar, after all, knows how to build massive swaths of utilitarian housing for temporary residents. The dusty outer reaches of Doha are filled with sprawling neighborhoods not unlike this, with names like Asian Town and the Industrial Area, that are permanent encampments for the migrant workers who do most of the construction and service work in Qatar. World Cup organizers appear to have employed the concept as a solution for fans.

Not all options were as boxy as an adequately appointed shipping container. At a more upscale fan village called Al Khor, located a 40-minute drive north of central Doha near the beach, the concept is “Arabian camping.”

Visitors stay in canvas tents adorned with furniture, plumbing, televisions and a refrigerator. There is a swimming pool, a restaurant, a collection of pop-up shops and a “fun zone” with a large fire pit and big-screen televisions. Advertised prices this week were more than $400 a night.

At the lower end of the spectrum is Caravan City, a collection of 1,000 boxy white trailers on wheels. Prices there began at about $115 per night.

But the far more common choice were containers, which organizers have deftly rebranded as “cabins.” They are, essentially, pop-up trailer parks, soccer-themed campgrounds, and there are three of them around Doha.

The one called Free Zone, where Xie stayed, has a hushed vibe, in between low-flying planes coming in and out of the nearby airport, due in no small part to the lack of alcohol on the premises. (Hotels are among the few places in Qatar where the sale of alcohol is permitted.) There is a sort of main street, a yellow-turf road that serves as a catwalk for a diverse mix of soccer fans.

Toward the horizon, the yellow turf dead-ends into a construction zone where, days into the tournament, heavy machinery was arranging still more containers. In the dark of Tuesday night, brigades of workers hooked up water and electricity, moved in furniture and cleaned the units for incoming guests.

When Xie arrived on Friday, he was one of the first to check in. By Tuesday, the village was teeming and disorganized. The wait simply to check in took hours. Electric carts brought in to shuttle people to their far-flung rooms — Xie said he had tipped the man who delivered him to temporary home a few days ago — were parked with dead batteries.

Gihana Fava and Renan Almeida, engaged to marry next year, arrived from Brazil. Like Xie, they booked the village without knowing quite what to expect, but the price was right. Hotels in the center of the city were either booked or well above their budget, Almeida said.

After a long flight (and a missed flight), they spent nearly three hours on Tuesday standing in a check-in line. Fava and Almeida finally got a key, got to a room and found that it was already occupied.

A new room — literally — was found. It was at the edge of the development, though, way out at S4, far from everything. There were twin beds, not the queen that they had booked. Everything was coated in a discernible layer of dust. The cleaners had not reached their unit yet.

Fava expressed worry that someone else might be handed a wrong key and come into their unit in the middle of the night. Could they leave their belongings safely here when they went to games?

Someone knocked on the door. Fava and Almeida were certain it was another guest, wrongly sent. But it was a worker, making sure the refrigerator worked. It appeared to be functioning.

The two tried the shower. It sprayed a strong stream of hot water. They smiled.

“I told Gihana that we should lower our expectations, expect the worst,” Almeida said. “Because it’s not a hotel.”

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Nets’ long homestand provides opportunity for season turnaround

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Ben Simmons has begun playing like the two-way star the Nets envisioned when they traded for him. Kyrie Irving is back from suspension and has built up his minutes. Kevin Durant is Kevin Durant. Coach Steve Nash is gone, one scapegoat sacrificed.

The Nets, getting healthier and theoretically more powerful, are about to embark on a lengthy homestand in which missing standouts or jet lag or the Los Angeles nightlife or Indiana officiating cannot be blamed for any losses.

If the Nets are going to realize their potential and turn their talent into victories, there might not be a more likely time than the stretch of seven games over 13 days at Barclays Center against beatable opponents, which will begin Sunday against the banged-up Trail Blazers.

“I think this is essential for our season,” Irving said after a loss at Indiana on Friday dropped them to 9-11. “Just to be able to establish some great habits at home like we’ve been doing, but now we’ll be tested on a seven-game home stretch.

“I’m looking forward to just being in front of our fans. But more important, being in front of our home environment and being able to flourish out there.”

With their three stars back in full force, now is the time for the Nets to kick it up another notch.
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At times the Nets have flourished, but in spurts rather than long stretches. Durant, Simmons and Irving looked like a title-contending Big 3 for three quarters against the Pacers before the Nets unraveled, their defense grew holes and they were outscored by 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Finding consistency has been the problem, and the built-in excuse is legitimate. Their trio of stars has played together for only half their games. Simmons lacked confidence and was not healthy at the onset of the campaign. By the time he turned the corner, Irving was suspended.

Head coach Jacque Vaughn has shuffled rotations both out of need and out of experimentation to find groups of Nets who could defend and rebound, which have been weak spots on a team that has not jelled together.

Their hope is that some time to bond, to practice and work together in Brooklyn as they gain strength can rescue a squad that has not been at .500 since it was 1-1.

“This homestretch is interesting for us in order for us to take care of business. You get in that space hopefully where you get guys to return and you can solidify rotations,” Vaughn said Friday. “That’s what we’re searching for. We’ve got some of it by getting Ben playing more minutes now. That piece looks like it’s pretty solved.”

The complementary pieces are still taking shape. After offseason ankle surgery, Seth Curry is improving, but still not playing back-to-backs. Joe Harris, who also had ankle surgery, which ended his 2021-22 season after just 14 games, has been a major disappointment, unable to find his shot. Yuta Watanabe has looked like a find, but has missed three straight games with a hamstring strain. T.J. Warren, coming off foot surgery, has yet to debut.

“There’s still some work to be done to get to know each other,” said Vaughn, who is 7-6 since taking over for Nash. “But we do need to start streamlining this thing and get going in the right direction.”

The Nets will open their homestand against the Blazers, who will be without the injured Damian Lillard, before facing the pitiful Magic on a back-to-back. The Nets won’t play on consecutive days again during the homestand, which will include one power (the Celtics), several solid opponents (Wizards, Raptors and Hawks) and a doormat (Hornets).

“You get a little bit of rhythm,” Vaughn said. “Get a chance to watch some film, get a chance to walk through some things. All that matters. We haven’t had a chance to do that on the road just because we’ve been on the road and trying to recover. So hopefully we can take advantage of that.”

And they need to take advantage of Durant while he still might be the best player in basketball and is complemented by two legitimate and unique stars. Simmons has morphed into the valuable, do-everything-but-shoot star he had not been for a few years. Irving has scored at least 20 points in each of his past three games and is looking more comfortable.

If the reality ever is to match the theoretical for the Nets, maybe the next seven games will be the catalyst.

“It’s only my fourth game back, so I’m still getting my legs under me, catching back into a rhythm. And we’re still figuring out lineups,” Irving said. “But I think once we do that, we’ll be in better shape. I don’t want to keep coming in [media sessions] and overpromising, but we’re utilizing these games to figure things out.”

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Revered Borje Salming leaves behind lasting Maple Leafs, NHL legacy as icon

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The beautiful part of it is that Borje Salming knew how the world perceived him before his passing as a victim of ALS on Thursday at age 71. The word “iconic” doesn’t quite do justice to the Hall of Fame defenseman. Salming was more that. He was revered. 

He was revered not only as a player, but also as an individual. Love and adoration flowed to Salming as a groundbreaker who became a pioneering role model in opening the door for an influx of his fellow Swedes into the NHL after he conquered an unwelcoming, antagonistic environment that confronted him and any who might threaten the Canadian hegemony of the league. 

Salming knew that. He knew that when he received a thunderous ovation at Maple Leaf Gardens during pregame introductions while representing Team Sweden prior to playing Team Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup. He knew that two weekends ago in Toronto on consecutive, emotional nights featuring one impromptu tribute and a second formal one that evoked tears. 

Similarly, he knew that at the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation Centennial Gala celebrating the country’s all-time greatest players at Avicii Arena in Stockholm just over one week ago, when his introduction evoked an emotional response. Salming was not only a beloved hockey player, but also a beloved individual in the way of Rod Gilbert, Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe, and a beloved cultural icon in the way of Maurice Richard. 

Borje Salming
Borje Salming passed away at 71.
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Mika Zibanejad was born in 1993, three years after Salming retired from the NHL and the same year No. 21 stepped away from the Swedish League to which he had returned for his final three seasons. Zibanejad is of a different generation. But he’s not ignorant. 

“From my personal experience, the guys I grew up watching were Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson,” Zibanejad told Slap Shots on Friday. “I was too young to see Salming play, and I’m sorry I never got the chance to interact with him, but I know what he did for our game. 

“He opened doors for players from Sweden and Europe and changed everything for us, and that is because of his courage.” 

Before Salming and countryman Inge Hammarstrom joined the Maple Leafs for the 1973-74 season, just three Swedes had played in the NHL. Ulf Sterner was the first, playing four games for the Rangers in 1964-65, but the slick center could not make the leap in an era in which European leagues did not permit bodychecking in the offensive zone. 

Juha Widing, another center who played for the Rangers in 1969-70 before he was traded to the Kings for Ted Irvine, was next. Detroit defenseman Thommie Bergman joined the league in 1972-73. Salming and Hammarstrom came over a year later in a time during which those of his origin were painted as, “Chicken Swedes.” By the way? In 2011, NBC analyst Mike Milbury called Daniel and Henrik Sedin, “Thelma and Louise,” so there was that. 

Salming joined the Leafs in an era during which Bobby Orr was just going out; Denis Potvin, Brad Park, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson dominated on the blue line; and Raymond Bourque was just coming into the NHL. 

Borje Salming is honored in a ceremony on Nov. 11.
Borje Salming is honored in a ceremony on Nov. 11.
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From 1974-75 — Salming’s sophomore season — through 1979-80, the Swede was the only defenseman to be named either first-team or second-team All-Star in each of those six seasons. He was dominant at both ends of the ice, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996. 

Salming was one of a kind. He kicked the door down for people like Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson to join the Rangers in 1978-79 as the 12th and 13th Swedes to play in the NHL. They faced constant physical abuse. They endured the slings and arrows so others could follow. 

Seventy-nine Swedes have played in the NHL this season. 

A statue of Borje Salming resides outside Scotiabank Arena.
A statue of Borje Salming resides outside Scotiabank Arena.
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“I know it was not easy for any of those players. Of all of us who are in the NHL now owe them a debt of gratitude,” Zibanejad said. “They paved the way for us. 

“It’s not something I think about on a day-to-day basis, but I do try to keep that in mind. I’m very thankful for what they did. I want to be able to have the same positive influence and make things better for the next generation. 

“That’s a way I can repay Borje.” 


The NHL gets younger and faster all the time, while Brian Boyle gets neither. But the 37-year-old center, currently unemployed as a free agent, should be a person of interest for Stanley Cup contenders looking to shore up their bottom sixes. 

“I’m not retired,” the one-time Ranger and Devil said in a text exchange this week. “I’d love to be playing but so far the offers haven’t been there 

Boyle, the 2018 Masterton winner, rehabbed from knee surgery after sustaining an injury in Game 6 of the Penguins’ first-round series against the Rangers. 

“I was good in four weeks,” said Boyle, an inspirational figure after having conquered chronic myeloid leukemia. “I’m training hard and am staying ready. We’ll see. 

“But all is great.”

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Artemi Panarin’s scoreless streak grows to 12 games in Rangers’ loss

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Artemi Panarin has gone 12 straight games without a goal after failing to score in the Rangers’ stunning 4-3 loss to the reeling Oilers on Saturday afternoon at the Garden. The 12 games tied the longest scoring drought of the Russian wing’s NHL career.

Game 12 likely stung more than the previous 11, however, considering Panarin thought he had scored twice.

Panarin had one of his more active games of the season, in two of the three periods at least. In addition to assisting on Chris Kreider’s second-period tally, Panarin posted two shots on goal and one takeaway. Both of his shots came in the first period.

The first came on a power play. Panarin wired one home from the right faceoff circle and had a look of relief rush upon his face. But Edmonton challenged for offside and the goal was rescinded after the replay revealed that Panarin never fully crossed the puck into the offensive zone before Vincent Trocheck entered.

Artemi Panarin reacts during the Rangers’ loss to the Oilers.
Jason Szenes

“Yeah, especially when I can’t score the last [11] games,” Panarin said when asked if he was frustrated. “Posts or something, always something. Just keep doing what I usually do. Try not to lose confidence. That’s the most important thing.”

Braden Schneider also had a goal negated after the Oilers challenged for goalie interference, which proved to be the case when replays showed Ryan Carpenter had made contact with Oilers goalie Jack Campbell in the blue crease.

Panarin later smacked a one-timer from the other faceoff circle and Campbell slid over to get in front of it just in time. It was unclear if the puck went in or not, so the refs got on the headsets with the situation room to give it a second look before it was officially deemed not a goal.

Panarin skated on the right wing of the top line next to Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider , similar to how the Rangers lined up at the end of their 3-2 loss to the Ducks in Anaheim on Wednesday and again in practice on Friday. That left Trocheck to center Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow. The Kid Line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko remained intact, while the fourth line featured Sammy Blais, Ryan Carpenter and Julien Gauthier.


Vitali Kravtsov was scratched for a seventh straight game despite taking part in warmups Saturday afternoon. Additionally, Libor Hajek replaced Zac Jones on the left side of the bottom defensive pair alongside Braden Schneider. Jones had played in the previous three games and seemed primed to get a run in the lineup, as Hajek already had, but  head coach Gerard Gallant opted to switch it up.


The Rangers dropped to 8-2-1 when scoring first this season after giving up four unanswered tallies in the third period.

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