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Beckham’s stadium complex for Inter Miami taking shape

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Piles of steel sit at one end of the property, waited to be lifted into place. Workers were going in all directions, some pounding nails into wood, others ready to pour concrete, others driving heavy equipment over piles of dirt.

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For now, it’s a construction site.

Before long, Inter Miami will call it home.

“Organized chaos,” Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough said as he took a look around the site of the now-demolished Lockhart Stadium where work on a new complex is happening 12 hours a day, seven days a week. “But we’ll be ready.”

These are hectic times for McDonough and Inter Miami, the team headlined by soccer icon David Beckham that will embark on its inaugural MLS season starting early in 2020. The team doesn’t have a coach yet. Or players. Or a schedule. Or even the first blade of grass for its new pitch.

Over the next few weeks, all those issues – and countless others – will be addressed. Construction is on schedule, with all signals pointing toward everything being ready for the team’s first home match that’s likely to come in March.

Still, that doesn’t do much to help McDonough’s sleep cycle.

“This takes up a ton of time and everything keeps me up at night,” McDonough said. “But it’s OK. We’re just on an accelerated timeline. There’s so much stuff going on. But this is expansion. It’s awesome. Everything we’re doing here, we’re trying to do it right.”

At any given time, there are about 225 workers on the job site – the whereabouts of all of them tracked with an app that gets data from a chip attached to the back of their hard hats. If there’s lightning in the area, work gets halted for 30 minutes until the cell passes. And that’s a big deal, because even with next season still months away every minute counts.

Nothing is ready, yet – but it will be.

“The way it was built out, we’re thinking of the athlete first from the minute they walk in,” said Jacklyne Ramos, the team’s vice president of communications as she stood inside what will be the building containing the locker room and other key spaces for the team. “The main stadium, that’s for the games. Where we are now, this is where they’ll live.”

The Associated Press got a tour on Monday of what will be Inter Miami’s inaugural home. The shell of the team’s headquarters – locker rooms, equipment room, dining area, coach’s office, what will become the sports performance lab, the academy workout facilities and more – is coming together. Every detail has been thought of; the walk from the players’ parking lot to the building will be short, the training room will be small (“I don’t want them comfortable in there,” McDonough said), and an area will be built just off the outside wall of the locker room to air out cleats after training sessions.

“They’ll never be in the building,” McDonough said. “Boots can stink.”

Beckham spent about five years trying to get MLS back in South Florida, and after many sites were considered – there’s still plans for the team to eventually play in another stadium that Beckham and his partner Jorge Mas want built in Miami – they settled on the former Lockhart site. Lockhart is where the MLS’ Miami Fusion played from 1998-2001, eventually folding because of poor attendance.

The centerpiece of everything is the 18,000-seat stadium, and parts of what will become the field are already largely marked off. Drainage was installed first, followed by four inches of rock for a base. From there, sprinklers go into place and four thin pieces of wood are set in place to mark where the goalposts will go. About a foot of soil will be added in the coming weeks, watered and compacted and graded. Sod is scheduled to go in Nov. 14; from there, it’ll be protected and fenced off and finally, what now seems like an oversized sand pit right now will look like a place to play soccer.

Behind that are more fields, including a turf one can be used for high school football and other events. The other half-dozen grass fields will be for training and the team’s affiliate clubs.

A coach will be hired soon. A roster is coming. There are plans for a soft opening a few weeks before the season and then, when the first match is played all the mess and chaos will be forgotten.

“I wasn’t ready for this. I’m still not,” McDonough said. “I’m learning as we go. Conduits, positioning of poles, there’s so many things that you don’t realize until you live it. But that’s what it takes and we’re getting it done.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

VIDEO: Dutch 2nd-division game stopped for racist abuse; player later scores goal

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A Dutch second-division game between Den Bosch and Excelsior was temporarily stopped on Sunday due to suspected racist chanting and Nazi salutes performed by some of Den Bosch’s fans.

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The game was halted by referee Laurens Gerrets in the 30 minute. Dutch winger Ahmad Mendes Moreira, who plays for Excelsior, was the player targeted by the racist chanting. He was at that time seen gesturing toward the crowd, indicating to Gerrets and teammates that he was hearing racist abuse from the stands.

In a mixed zone for media availability after the game, Den Bosch manager Erik van der Ven is reported to have called Mendes Moreira a “pathetic little man” for pointing out the racist abuse to Gerrets. Den Bosch released a statement claiming that no racist abuse occurred, that the fans were instead making “crow sounds” and treating Mendes Moreira to a “crow concert,” which they claim is part of customary treatment of opposing players.

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Mendes Moreira appeared emotional after scoring a goal to put Excelsior 2-1 ahead fewer than 15 minutes after the game was restarted.

Defending champs Portugal qualify for EURO 2020

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Defending European champions Portugal booked their place at the 2020 European Championship with a 2-0 victory away to Luxembourg on Sunday, the final day of qualification.

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Portugal (17 points) finishes second in Group B behind Ukraine (20), three points ahead of third-place Serbia which will now go the qualification playoffs route in March.

Bruno Fernandes scored Sunday’s winner in the 39th minute, followed by a late insurance goal from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 86th.

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As things stand, Portugal, who won the European title in 2016 and followed it up with the inaugural UEFA Nations League crown earlier this year, will be placed into Pot 3, alongside Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Austria and Sweden. Ukraine, meanwhile, is assured of being seeded in Pot 1.

Southgate: Gomez to ‘clear his head’ following injury, Sterling incident

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Gareth Southgate believes Joe Gomez has a chance to “clear his head” in the wake of this week’s incident with England teammate Raheem Sterling, thanks to the minor knee which forced Gomez out of the England team for Sunday’s game against Kosovo.

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Gomez suffered the injury in a clash of knees during Friday’s training session, but Southgate stated emphatically that Gomez is “absolutely fine” after undergoing a scan “and I think he’ll be fine in a couple of days.”

As Southgate sees, the injury could be something of a blessing in disguise for Gomez, who earlier this week was involved in a brief physical confrontation with Sterling, to “clear his head” before beginning his regular work week back at Liverpool. Southgate believes that both players have received closure over the incident and can now move forward without issue.

“I think now is a good moment for him just to go home for a couple of days, clear his head.”

“I think the fact that Raheem put out the tweet was real closure on that whole incident. We get Raheem back on the pitch tomorrow. We won the match on Thursday and we can now just look forwards.

“You couldn’t make it up, really, if you tried, but he’s absolutely fine. He took a clash of knees yesterday. We scanned it just to be certain and I think he’ll be fine in a couple of days.”

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England secured qualification to this summer’s European Championship with a 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro, a game for which Sterling was dropped. Even before Gomez’s injury forced him out of the team, Sterling was set to return to the England team for Sunday’s qualifying finale.

Players in Spanish women’s league go on strike

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MADRID (AP) Spanish women’s league players have gone on strike this weekend demanding better wages and worker protections. Both of Saturday’s games and the six games scheduled for Sunday were postponed due to the players’ refusal to play.

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Players had announced the strike last month after failing to reach a deal with clubs over wages and working hours. More than 90 percent of the 200 players who voted favored the strike, the first in women’s soccer in Spain.

The players’ and clubs’ associations in Spain have been mired in negotiations over a first collective agreement for more than a year.

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Among other issues is the protection of benefits for players in the event of pregnancy.

Spain has 16 first-division women’s clubs, but only a few are fully professional.

The clubs claim they can’t afford the changes currently proposed by the players.