By Tim Stannard
LaLiga is back in business as Sevilla and Betis come together for a demolition derby day to set off the wildest of rides
Three months ago, the world fell apart due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It is still far from ever pulling itself back together.
In terms of soccer, fans faced the possibility of the beautiful game being away for a year. Action-starved supporters desperately sought out streams of the Belarus league as a football fix.
Just three months later, hundreds of soccer players, coaches, support staff and technical operators in Spain are having their nasal cavities invaded every few days, avoiding the shops, and playing one of the toughest match schedules ever devised to enable the world's best league to be back in business.
...And for those same fans who craved action from Belarus to complain about artificial atmosphere being added to the match feed. The new normal.
A magisterial maelstrom of matches from Spain gets underway on Thursday with Sevilla taking on Betis in a city derby. Back with a bang.
That kicks off what is expected to be a continuous run of games from Spain, Monday to Sunday all the way through to the end of July - 110 games in 39 days.
beIN SPORTS will be covering the action from LaLiga all the way with the most effulgent previews and post-match analysis, every day.
It all starts at 3:30PM ET / 12:30PM PT today with the return of Ray and Phil to the socially-distanced, virtual booth and the Seville derby.
With the crowd noise as optional.
Nelson Semedo misses Barcelona training after breaking health protocols
The complexities of soccer returning to Spain under the most stringent - and very necessary - of health protocols is akin to herding 500 cats and making sure no photographs are ever taken of them.
That herding involves making sure that the players of LaLiga isolate as much as possible over the next six weeks, follow the health rules of their regions, and if they break them, avoid having the evidence posted on social media.
Barcelona fullback, Nelson Semedo, failed in all three of these rules by attending a birthday party on Monday, apparently with more than 10 people present - a local no-no - with no social distancing, no mask-wearing and with the evidence of the aforementioned activities being posted on social media.
Hence, the terse message from Barcelona's Twitter feed on Thursday that "Semedo did not train, as per the protocol established by LaLiga." That situation will remain the same until the Portuguese fullback returns negative tests. The rest of the Barcelona squad also had to undergo tests on Thursday as well.
Training session with available first team players. N. Semedo did not train as per protocol established by La Liga. pic.twitter.com/Fl3iaLODFu— FC Barcelona (from 🏠) (@FCBarcelona) June 11, 2020
It remains to be seen whether the player is available for Saturday's restart opener against Mallorca that is live on beIN SPORTS from 3:30PM ET / 12:30PM PT.
US Soccer votes to repeal kneeling ban
Back in the USA, and US Soccer's board of directors voted on a call on Wednesday to repeal a 2017 ban on kneeling during the national anthem. The ban had been put in place due to Megan Rapinoe kneeling ahead of games in 2016 in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.
"We apologize to our players – especially our Black players – staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism," said an official statement from US Soccer.
The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted yesterday to repeal Policy 604-1, which required our players to stand during the national anthem.— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) June 11, 2020
Black Lives Matter.
We can do more and we will. pic.twitter.com/wtyfkVZmsB
Meanwhile, in a move that begs the question of why they were allowed in the first place, NASCAR has decided that Confederate flags are no longer allowed its races and events.
"Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special," said a NASCAR statement on Wednesday on a new policy that it wasn't apparently keen on following a fortnight ago.
PGA Tour to pay tribute to George Floyd in restart event
Golf in the US returns on Thursday with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.
The PGA Tour event will mark the death of George Floyd with a minute's silence at 8:46AM, to signify the length of time that he was pinned down by a police officer in Minneapolis before his death.
"I think what the PGA Tour has done with the moment of silence at 8:46am and not using that tee time is a wonderful gesture," said Rory McIlroy, the front-runner in golf's restart tournament.