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Socceroos heading to Sharjah to meet China



China’s inability to play World Cup qualifiers at home means it will ‘host’ the Socceroos in Sharjah later this month.

The Socceroos will return to the Middle East following their Sydney clash against Saudi Arabia, with confirmation their World Cup qualifier against China will be played in the United Arab Emirates.

The Australians will play on home soil for the first time since October 2019 when they host the Saudis – who top Group B in the third round of AFC World Cup qualifying – at CommBank Stadium on Thursday week.

However, while Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted to allow the Socceroos to again play at home, it’s a different case in China.

As a result, the Chinese national team must continue to play its home matches on foreign soil.

China will “host” the Socceroos in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, November 17 (AEDT) at the 18,000-capacity Sharjah Stadium.

The Socceroos will have no qualms about playing the match in the UAE after winning a host of games in the Middle East in the past two years.

However, the timing of the match against China isn’t good for A-League champions Melbourne City, who start their title defence on Friday, November 19 at AAMI Park against Brisbane Roar.

City’s star attackers, Mat Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout, are all expected to be named in Graham Arnold’s latest Socceroos squad, set to be announced on Friday.

Any City players chosen in the squad face a tight turnaround in their bid to play in the opening match of the A-League season.

City faced a similar situation in last season’s finals series, but managed to defy the absence of Maclaren, Curtis Good and Connor Metcalfe – who were on Socceroos duty in Kuwait – to win the title.

Socceroos coach Arnold arrived back in Australia on Monday after a stint of almost six months overseas.

Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant and Melbourne Victory attacker Chris Ikonomidis – the only two A-League players in the Socceroos squad for last month’s World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan – are both out of quarantine and training with their clubs.

The Socceroos, whose 11-game winning streak was ended by Japan, are in second place in Group B, three points behind Saudi Arabia, who have a perfect record of 12 points from four matches.

China has just three points from four matches, with only Vietnam behind them on the Group B ladder.

The top two teams from Group A and Group B will automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Originally published as The Socceroos’ road to next year’s World Cup will take them to Sharjah to meet China




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People board Qantas flight to London at Sydney Airport as Australia’s international borders reopen



New pictures have captured heartwarming moments as passengers boarded the first international flights since borders reopened.

There were tears of joy and relief – and some of sadness – at Sydney Airport on Monday as the first flights left Australia.

The country’s international borders had reopened after 582 days of Covid-19 restrictions and travellers were eager to reunite with loved ones overseas following months of painful separation and missed milestones.

Emotions were running high as Carolyn Chambers and her five-year-old son Ephraim prepared to check-in for the 5.55pm QF1 – the first plane to London.

“It’s a bit of both happy and sad,” she said of their trip to her hometown of Pontefract, West Yorkshire.

“I’m expecting everyone to be very emotional after not being able to do normal family events. My parents haven’t seen their grandchild in more than two years.”

Mrs Chambers lives with her British husband on the NSW Central Coast and couldn’t be in the UK in person for her sister’s wedding or her father’s cancer diagnosis.

She said daily FaceTime calls couldn’t compare to being able to hug her mum.

Ephraim, who was given a teddy bear dressed as a UK police officer at the check-in desk, was excited about playing with his cousins and his grandparents.

Fully vaccinated Australians, permanent residents and their families can now come and go without having to apply for permission to leave the country.

With quarantine scrapped in NSW and Victoria, Mrs Chambers said it was a “massive relief” not to have to navigate a fortnight in a hotel room with a young child.

Elle Robertson was embraced by her mother and father before she stepped through the departure gates for the first time in 10 months.

The 24-year-old fashion management student will be swapping her days on the tractor with her dad on the family farm for a shared flat with friends and nights out in London.

Ms Robertson, who has been studying her masters online from Taralga, in the NSW southern tablelands, said she had been rejected four times for an exemption to leave Australia to return to the UK.

“I’ve only been there for nine months out of two years. Online (classes) have been tough. It’s been from 6pm to 3am. Then dad wakes me up at 6am every morning to go out and do some farm work,” she said.

“So when ScoMo announced it was time to go, I was like, ‘Get me out of here’.”

Her mother Fiona Robertson said she and her husband Bruce were “teary, but excited” about their daughter’s big move back overseas.

“This is what we brought them up to be, independent young people. It’s just so far away,” she said.

“I can’t just pop over for a cup of tea. But, you know, she’ll be fine.”

Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce said some of the stories of people being kept apart by the border closures were heartbreaking.

He compared the emotional day to the famous scenes from Love Actuallyin which overjoyed Londoners step into each other’s arms at the Heathrow Airport arrivals terminal.

“I’m feeling relieved and excited at the same time – relieved that we’re getting all of our people back to work, relieved that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he told NCA NewsWire at Sydney Airport.

“And excited that we’re seeing all of our passengers being able to catch up with loved ones and friends.”

Originally published as Emotions run high at Sydney Airport as Australia’s international borders reopen




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Covid NSW: State records 177 new local coronavirus cases as travel restrictions set to ease



NSW has recorded 177 new local coronavirus infections, a day before state residents will be allowed a number of new travel freedoms.

NSW has recorded 177 new local Covid-19 infections a day before state residents will be allowed to travel internationally.

Health authorities said there was one new death caused by the virus, while 78 cases were being treated in intensive care units.

From Monday, fully vaccinated Australians returning to NSW from overseas will not need to quarantine and those wanting to head overseas will not need an exemption to do so.

From that day, Sydney residents will also be able to travel to regional NSW and, from Tuesday, the travel bubble with New Zealand will return with holiday makers allowed to move from NZ’s South Island to NSW and Victoria without quarantine.

Commonwealth chief medical officer Paul Kelly said rapidly increasing vaccination coverage had allowed Australia to open borders to the world from November 1.

“Vaccinated Australians will be able to travel internationally without seeking exemptions, and vaccinated Australian citizens, residents and their families will be able to return quarantine-free to jurisdictions that are ready,” the professor said in a statement on Saturday evening.

“One-way quarantine-free travel to Australia from anywhere in New Zealand can recommence from 11:59pm AEDT on Sunday 31 October 2021 for jurisdictions that are ready to do so and for travellers that have been in either Australia or New Zealand for the 14 days prior to departure.”

This will only apply to NSW and Victoria, however, as the two states are the only jurisdictions to abolish quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers.

As of Sunday, more than 93 per cent of NSW residents over 16 had received one dose and 87.5 per cent had received both jabs.

NSW virus numbers have remained relatively low for the past few weeks, compared with the months of August and September when there were more than 28 days with over a 1000 daily community cases.

Restrictions for the fully vaccinated have been significantly eased in the state, with further travel restrictions set to loosen on Monday.

Originally published as NSW records 177 new local coronavirus cases as travel restrictions set to ease




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