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FOOTBALL

Barça under fire as men’s team fly business class, women go economy

Barcelona's first mixed-sex tour was overshadowed by controversy Thursday after it emerged that the men's football team flew in business class to the United States while the women's team was relegated to the back of the plane in economy.

Barça under fire as men's team fly business class, women go economy
Photos show the women in Economy class (where they had 3 seats each) while the Men's team spread out in First Class.

The Spanish giants posted photos and videos of the two teams boarding the Portland-bound plane together but photos posted by the female players online showed they were flying in economy, sparking an outcry on social media after this was noticed by supporters of the women's team.

“There was one photo of the team captains in business class before the men took their seats in business class and the women returned to their economy seats,” wrote one much discussed fan-run account which tweeted extensively about the topic, @BarcaWomen.

 

“If any of the women were in Business Class, then we certainly didn't see them. If FC Barcelona is going to say that they are about Equality, then the actions must be there to back it up.”

But Alexia Putellas of the women's team said the teams flew in separate sections of the plane because the female squad had been added to the tour at a late stage after the club had already chartered its flight and all the business seats had already been assigned to the men.

“The club made an effort to organise everything practically at the last minute… I wish we would always travel like this, in these conditions,” she told reporters in Portland after the team's first training session.

Sports daily Marca reported that there were only 36 spaces at the front of the plane and each female player was booked three seats for comfort.   

“A controversy was generated without taking into account everything that we do. The club hired a chartered plane, but at the beginning it was not anticipated that the female team would be on the tour. It's a logistics problem,” Barcelona vice president Josep Vives said in a statement.

Maria Teixidor, director of the women's team, defended the club from what she said was unfair criticism.

“To all of you who these days decided to criticise the conditions of the women's team's trip, I say that Barça asked its female players to travel with its male players so that in the future they can travel in business class on their own plane,” she wrote in a letter on Barcelona's official website.   

“That will be the day that we can talk about equality because women's sport will have the same media coverage, sponsorship deals and fan interest as men's sport.”

The women's team will return to Spain on July 29th — this time in business class, according to the club. 

The men's team will stay in the United States until August 4th, where they will play friendlies against Tottenham, Roma and Milan.

By AFP's Daniel Bosque

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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