Youth soccer league halted due to NFL’s Super Bowl

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Youth soccer players in Santa Clara, California won’t be able to play for a couple of months in 2016 due to the Super Bowl “media village” being set up on their fields.

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With Levi’s Stadium the host for Super Bowl 50, the NFL will shut down the soccer facility for almost two months as they create a “media village” on the soccer pitches for the showpiece event.

What is all the fuss about here? Well, the NFL had previously stated it would only be using the soccer pitches as a staging area for the halftime show but a last-minute switch has seen what one parents calls a “world-class soccer facility” reduced to a media patch of land organizers can now do whatever they want with.

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Cue outrage from many involved within the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League as over 250 games will have to be moved or rescheduled during the time period the pitches are out of action, while many are concerned about damage to the pitches.

More on this from ProFootballTalk’s Darin Gantt below:

Cities will hand over whatever it takes — and specifically, whatever the NFL wants — for a chance to land a Super Bowl.

And some Santa Clara soccer players are learning a real-life lesson in the business of the NFL, as their club’s complex is about to be taken over for two months by the NFL to create a “media village” near Levi’s Stadium for Super Bowl 50.

The 49ers and NFL care more about the property than the kids,” 16-year-old Andrew Robertson said, via Ramona Giwargis of the San Jose Mercury News. “I think it’s pretty unfair because that park has been there even before the plans for the stadium. I just think we deserve to be there.”

(Suddenly, I feel like the Grinch patting Cindy Lou Who on top of her precious little head, and telling her one of the lights on her tree is out, and I’m taking it to my shop on Mount Crumpit to fix.)

Sorry Andrew, but of course the NFL cares more about property than the kids. Because property is worth money, and kids and soccer games (250 or so which will have to be moved and rescheduled) are collateral damage in their war to conquer the hearts and minds and wallets of America.

But beyond the inconvenience of the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League (which will lose its fields from Jan. 4 to March 2), there are also questions about just what else the city turned over to the league.

The 49ers and the league have promised to replace two grass fields at the park after the Super Bowl, and team spokesman Bob Lange said it was all part of the 2013 bid to land the game. But the soccer moms don’t have to like it, saying the takeover of the soccer park was a last-minute switch, since the park was originally supposed to be a staging area for the halftime show.

“This is a world-class soccer facility and they’re going to destroy it,” said councilwoman Lisa Gillmor, who happens to be a soccer mom as well. “I’m appalled at this behavior. It reeks of stinky backroom deals and I’m sick of it.”

Of course, “it reeks of stinky backroom deals” is practically a league motto, and the innocent soccer players and their moms in minivans aren’t going to change that.

A joint-statement released by the Super Bowl hosting team, the San Francisco 49ers, and the NFL on Dec. 8 said the following regarding the soccer fields:

“The 49ers and the NFL are partnering to replace the two natural grass fields at the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park at no cost to the City of Santa Clara. Installation of those fields will begin following the completion of Super Bowl related activities, which are scheduled to conclude on February 28.”

It is also been stated that the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League knew all along that their fields would be out of action for the two-month time period. It was also clear that when the deal was signed by the City of Santa Clara and the NFL in 2013 to use the land around the stadium for Super Bowl activities, no specific guarantees were given as to how the land would be used. The NFL has also promised to repair any damage done to the facility.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

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It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

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“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.