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EURO 2016

FOOTBALL

Croatian hooligans threaten trouble ahead of Spain game

Hardcore supporters of Croatian club Hajduk Split, suspected of throwing flares during the Euro 2016 match against the Czech Republic, have threatened on Facebook to also disrupt the next game against Spain.

Croatian hooligans threaten trouble ahead of Spain game
Croatia fans react to French riot police. Photo: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek / AFP

UEFA have brought charges after at least 10 flares were lobbed from the Croatian corner of the Saint-Etienne stadium during the 2-2 draw with Czech Republic on Friday.

The incident sparked outrage in the Balkan nation with Croatia coach Ante Cacic branding the perpetrators “sports terrorists” and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic describing them as “enemies of Croatia”.

The “Torcida Split 1950” supporters' group posted a layout of the stadium in Bordeaux where Croatia play against Spain on Tuesday and their supposed plan of action. A caption on the map spoke of “another plan”.

Angry comments under the post read “you are a disgrace to this country” and “you should be ashamed and thanks to hooligans like you I'm ashamed of being a Croatian”.

Just hours before the start of the troubled match against the Czechs, Torcida had posted a similar map of the layout of the Saint-Etienne stadium.    

UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings into the crowd trouble with a ruling expected on Monday.

Croatia's football federation (HNS) insisted that UEFA and French police had been warned that hooligans planned to disrupt the match.   

HNS said it believed the Hajduk Split fans were behind the incident, but the group has rejected the accusations as “fake and unfounded”.    

Croatian football fans have a history of throwing flares at matches and chanting pro-Nazi slogans.

Ahead of Euro 2016, Croatian police sent a list of 326 potential troublemakers to France.    

Apart from Hajduk Split, hardcore fans are also linked with reigning Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb.   

Hooliganism has increased in Croatia over the past four years since former international striker Davor Suker took over as HNS president.   

Some fans believe Suker and the federation are too closely linked with controversial former Dinamo Zagreb boss Zdravko Mamic, a key figure in Croatian football.

They accuse Mamic, indicted in April in a multi-million-euro corruption case, of unfairly profiting from football and have staged protests against the national team in response.

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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