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FOOTBALL

‘Something no black player wants’: Bilbao striker suffers racist abuse

Athletic Bilbao striker Inaki Williams said he was the victim of racist abuse on Saturday during his team's 1-1 draw away to Espanyol in La Liga.

'Something no black player wants': Bilbao striker suffers racist abuse
Bilbao striker Inaki Williams celebrates during Saturdays game against Espagnol. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP
“I'm a little sad because of the draw but especially because I have suffered racist insults,” Williams told the official club website after the game. “It's something that no black player or player of any race wants to hear. It's something totally out of place.”
   
“People have to come to the stadium to enjoy the game, to cheer on their team, to enjoy football. It's a game of friendship, of the team,” added the forward. “The truth is that it has been a sad day because of what I am telling you,
because these events that are totally out of place do not have to happen.”
 
Inaki wrote later on social media: “It is very sad that today we continue to experience racism in football. We have to end it. Thank you for your support. #Nomocracies #Semiostracism.”
 
   
Athletic Bilbao offered their backing for the 25-year-old. “All our support to @Williaaams45,” the club wrote in a message on Twitter. “Before anything, zero tolerance for racism.”
 
La Liga and the Spanish Football Federation are yet to comment but La Liga president Javier Tebas said it had been a dark day for the sport after violence also broke out between fans of Barcelona and Valencia before their fixture at Mestalla.
   
“Today we have taken a step back in the work that we started years ago,” Tebas wrote on Twitter. “The violent incidents between fans of Barcelona and Valencia, the racist insults made at Inaki Williams — these things are doing a lot of damage to Spanish football. “La Liga takes responsibility. We will look at the clubs where there has been wrongdoing.”
   
Referee Jose Sanchez made no mention of racism in his official report of the match between Espanyol and Bilbao.
   
The game also continued, unlike in December, when a Spanish second division fixture between Rayo Vallecano and Albacete was suspended with the agreement of the two clubs and La Liga.
   
Some Rayo supporters had chanted “Zozulya is a Nazi” in the first half against Albacete's Ukrainian striker Roman Zozulya, who had previously played for Rayo.

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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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