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Why Boxing Day is a sacred day in the Premier League

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Boxing Day is one of the most sacred days in the Premier League calendar.

It is my favorite.

[ STREAM: Every Boxing Day game live

There’s a special buzz around the stadiums, towns and in homes across the UK as the entire festive schedule centers around December 26 each year.

When I speak to most Americans about the Premier League, one of the topics which often comes up is “hey, how crazy is Boxing Day?” It is crazy, especially with so many matchdays bunched together around Christmas and New Year’s.

But Brits wouldn’t have it any other way as eight games take place on Dec. 26 and you can sit back and watch them all via NBC Sports by clicking on the link above.

Boxing Day is, of course, a national holiday in the UK and in case you didn’t know the history behind the day, it dates back centuries with the etymology being linked to a day where Christmas boxes were given to trade workers in the week after Christmas to thank them for their work all year.

It is also a day where the sporting calendar thrives as cricket, horse racing and rugby all compete with soccer to be the sport to watch on Dec. 26. When it comes down to it, it’s all about soccer with a full day of games across the professional, semi-professional and often amateur leagues across the UK. Across the rest of Europe, they’re on a break and enjoying the holidays with their families and friends.

In the UK soccer takes center stage on Boxing Day.

With some calling for a winter break in England to give the English national team a better chance of advancing to the latter stages of a World Cup or European Championship, many soccer fans in the UK would rather have the Boxing Day schedule such is the connection to the day. They’d rather have that warm moment around the holidays to connect with their team than see England get to the semifinals of a tournament and then get knocked out on penalty kicks…

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Fans wear 'Father Christmas' style hats during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Coming the day after Christmas Day, it is also the perfect time to head out of the house after a few days of feasting and sharing gifts with the family. It’s a chance to get some fresh air, catch up with friends over a pint or at the bookies about their holiday stories and then cheer on your team while you wear your new scarf of jacket.

There’s no other day like it.

In the past teams used to play back-to-back games on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (the last time they did this was 1957) and that seems a little too much. Boxing Day has survived the test of time and with stadiums packed due to everyone heading home for the holidays, it’s a special time to watch a game and usually special games spring up with goals galore. Due to squad rotation and some teams adapting to the festive schedule better than others, you never quite know what will happen.

Opposition fans are friendlier (minutely) with their chants, stadium staff and supporters get along and even the players seem to be enjoying themselves a little more despite having a game to play.

The energy and vibe is different and, much like opening day, it is one of the best days in the Premier League season. Plus, you’re approaching the midway point of the campaign so plenty of teams are still optimistic about what lies ahead and even if your team is struggling, there’s still time to turn things around.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: General View of a Christmas tree at the front of the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on December 14, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Full of festive cheer, crazy games and history, Boxing Day is ingrained in the British soccer psyche.

Like opening day in MLB, Thanksgiving games in the NFL and the Sunday of a Masters week at Augusta, it is a sacred day in the sporting calendar where the action often encapsulates the overall mood.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s compassionate statement after World Cup-ending injury

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Knee ligament damage will cost Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his World Cup and a potential UEFA Champions League final, but it hasn’t hurt his perspective.

The 24-year-old injured his knee in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Roma, and needed to be stretchered off the field.

[ MORE: LFC 2-1 Roma | Klopp reacts ]

Liverpool announced the extent of his injury on Wednesday, and “The Ox” took to social media to declare his regret.

Oxlade-Chamberlain admitted that he’s “gutted” to be hurt, but added, “This pales in comparison to how the family of the Liverpool fan badly hurt before last night’s game must be feeling. My thoughts are with him and his loved ones.”

The player is referring to a 53-year-old man was left in critical condition after being beaten by Roma supporters before the match at Anfield.

LIVE, UCL semifinal: Bayern Munich v. Real Madrid

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Bayern Munich host Real Madrid in their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg on Wednesday (2:45 p.m. ET kick off) as two European giants collide once again in the latter stages of the tournament.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Real are hoping to win a third-straight UCL title but with Bayern showing throughout the tournament they are solid defensively, plus Robert Lewnadowski deadly in front of goal, Real know they will be up against it in the first leg away from home.

That said, Zinedine Zidane has an ace up his sleeve in Cristiano Ronaldo who is in incredible goalscoring form.

What a game this should be.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while we will have reaction and analysis from the clash in Bavaria right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

Oxlade-Chamberlain to miss rest of season, World Cup

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This is awful news.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss the rest of the season for Liverpool and England after damaging ligaments in his right knee.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, 24, injured his knee in a tackle with Aleksandar Kolarov early in Liverpool’s 5-2 win against AS Roma in their UEFA Champions League second leg on Tuesday.

In a statement released on Liverpool’s website on Wednesday they revealed the extent of the Ox’s injury.

”Liverpool FC can confirm Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s 2017-18 season is over for both club and country due to a knee ligament injury sustained against AS Roma on Tuesday evening. The extent of the injury means Oxlade-Chamberlain is set to miss the remainder of the campaign for Liverpool, as well as the World Cup finals in Russia with England.

“The 24-year-old was assessed by the club’s medical team at Melwood on Wednesday morning and no specific timescale is being placed upon his return to action at this stage. However, Oxlade-Chamberlain will now begin a rehabilitation programme to enable him to reach full fitness again as soon as possible, returning to action next season.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain has reinvented himself this season in a central midfield role following his move from Arsenal in the summer of 2017.

His driving runs from midfield have caused so many problems and he was in the best form of his career over he past few months.

After struggling for so long with injures, the Ox finally had a run of six months or so without an injury and he was fulfilling his potential with big goals and performances against Manchester City in Liverpool’s wins against them in the PL an UEFA Champions League.

The fact that Oxlade-Chamberlain will have to watch on if Liverpool reach the UCL final and then again for the World Cup with England is a cruel blow.

Argentina shocked by abuse of minors at top clubs

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) The young victims are still here: they’re among the kids who like to share stories while they sip on traditional Argentine tea, who check their phones outside changing rooms, and kick a ball around during a break from practice.

The teens live in the boarding house for Independiente’s youth section, where they should have been safe, dreaming of becoming Argentina’s next soccer great.

Instead, investigators say pedophiles turned their lives into a nightmare when they paid many of these children, who come from poor families in remote corners of the country, as little as a bus ride back home or a pair of football boots in exchange for sex.

The prosecutor investigating the case says that at least 10 minors were prostituted and several other more minors are believed to have been potential victims. So far, seven men, including a referee, have been arrested.

The child prostitution ring at Independiente was followed by reports that minors had also been allegedly abused at River Plate’s youth divisions. The growing scandal at two of Argentina’s most popular and successful clubs has shocked many in this soccer-mad nation.

The Argentine Football Federation has ordered monitoring of club boarding houses nationwide. But former players, sports psychologists and parents say that much more needs to be done to protect the children who train in talent factories where Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and other stars polished their skills growing up.

Independiente filed a complaint with prosecutors earlier this year when the allegations first surfaced after one of the players broke down during a session with a club psychologist.

“We had two paths: reporting this or covering it up, and we decided to look the children and the parents in the eyes and file a complaint,” a club official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the case is still being investigated.

“Thanks to this complaint, all the people involved are behind bars,” the source said. “There’s a huge social phenomenon here: There have been other reports since we filed the complaint, and I hope others have the courage to come out as well, because this goes far beyond Independiente.”

Just days after the Independiente case broke out, River Plate said that it would cooperate with authorities after a local group reported minors were allegedly abused in the club’s youth divisions from 2004-11.

“The state should be much more involved so that a child doesn’t have to sleep with a man for some football boots or money to send back to his family,” said Maria Elena Leuzzi, a founder of the AVIVI Association for Victims of Rape that filed the complaint about River Plate.

“A child should always be cared for. We don’t know if we’ll have a future dad, a president, or a soccer player.”

Argentina is home to some of the world’s greatest players, but also fan violence by hooligans and endemic corruption by generations of soccer bosses and scouts who run the lucrative and often unregulated business of finding future stars.

“At the clubs, the bosses need to understand that kids are not numbers,” said Leonel Gancedo, a former player for River Plate and several other clubs who now runs the “Angeles Unidos” club.

“What has happened is shameful,” he said. “It’s a consequence of poor decisions.”

Many children in club boarding houses come from impoverished faraway communities, living far from their parents under the care of clubs, dreaming of a chance to make it big in the ultra-competitive world of professional football.

But for the thousands of talented youngsters who try out in the lower divisions, only a small percentage will become elite players. Some will struggle to overcome injuries. Others will fall to the psychological pressure at home or on the field.

“A kid can’t be pressured to save his family economically. It’s too much,” said Oscar Mangione, a sport psychologist and a former therapist for the Boca Juniors club.

Like elsewhere in the world, Argentina has experienced a string of sex abuse disclosures in the Catholic Church, and more recently, among celebrities and athletes. But the magnitude of the latest abuse scandal in sports is unprecedented in a country that prides itself on its World Cup victories and its Olympic medals in everything from sailing to field hockey.

Argentina’s Olympic Committee recently filed a legal complaint against a gymnastics coach who is accused of abusing a still undetermined number of athletes in the 1990s. As part of the investigation by a local prosecutor, authorities raided the headquarters of the Argentine gymnastics confederation.

“This is being spoken about much more: Newspapers, the radio, they all help to spread the word. We’re helping the victim lose its shame,” Leuzzi said. “The one who has to feel shame is the one who carries out the abuse.”

The kickoff for change should come from a serious effort by the Argentine Football Association to set safety rules among clubs nationwide, said Cesar La Paglia, a former player for Boca Juniors and the manager of Club Social Parque, a youth club.

“There are kids aged 8 or 9 living in these club boarding houses – it’s insane,” he said. “Those kids should be with their parents.”

In all, there are 50 teenagers from across Argentina living at the brick residences painted in the red and white club colors of Independiente. On a recent day, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The sound of a ball being kicked in a field surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees could be heard inside the main hall; Football boots were neatly lined up below the club’s red emblem; and a poster of the stadium with a cheering crowd on a wall, read: “The temple of your dreams.”

The club says that the victims have been reunited with their families in Buenos Aires and continue to receive psychological support while it continues to cooperate with authorities.

Meanwhile, a judge is expected to issue charges this week against the seven people who are being held in the alleged prostitution ring, and the prosecutor investigating the case has requested that they remain in prison.

Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao