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FOOTBALL

Spanish football match suspended amid ‘Nazi’ chanting

A second division match in Spain between Rayo Vallecano and Albacete was suspended at half-time on Sunday after Rayo fans sang songs calling Albacete's Roman Zozulya a "Nazi".

Spanish football match suspended amid 'Nazi' chanting
A second division match in Spain between Rayo Vallecano andRayo fans sang songs calling Albacete's Roman Zozulya a "Nazi". File photo: AFP

The game was stopped during the first period at Vallecas and then suspended at the interval after Rayo supporters had chanted “puta Nazi”, meaning “fucking Nazi” at Zozulya, who joined Rayo on loan in 2017.

An Albacete statement read: “With the backing of @RayoVallecano, Albacete Balompie and of @LaLiga, the referee and the @rfef, it has been decided to suspend the game in Vallecas.

“A decision made with the sole objective of safeguarding the values of the sport we love and our competition.”

Rayo Vallecano wrote on Twitter: “Due to the repeated chants and insults made during the first half of the #RayoAlbacete game, the match is suspended.”    

Zozulya joined Rayo on loan in 2017 from Real Betis but never made an appearance for the club after his spell was cut short due to opposition from Rayo fans, who are renowned for being politically left-wing.

The Ukraine forward wrote an open letter to Rayo's supporters denying any links to neo-Nazi groups but some fans still attended his first training session with a banner that read Vallecas was “not a place for Nazis”.

Sunday's game was goalless at half-time, although Albacete were down to 10 men after their midfielder Eddy Silvestre had been sent off.    

“It's a very sad night for Rayo and the sport,” said Rayo club president Raul Martin Presa.

“We strongly condemn the insults that a section of the supporters, at the back, uttered towards an opposing player. We feel pain and shame after what happened.”

Presa said he had spoken to and “kissed” Zozulya, because he is “a human being and deserves respect”. 

Albacete vice-president Victor Varela said he wanted to highlight “the exemplary behaviour of Rayo”, in solidarity with their rivals.    

“During the first half, friends told me that the player was in tears and he collapsed when he returned to the dressing room.” 

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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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