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FOOTBALL

Chelsea teammates Ballack and Drogba to miss friendly

Both Germany captain Michael Ballack and his Chelsea teammate Didier Drogba have been ruled out for Wednesday's friendly match, as the mourning Germans prepare to take on the Ivory Coast.

Chelsea teammates Ballack and Drogba to miss friendly
Photo: DPA

The entire German squad was in Hannover on Sunday at the memorial service for national goalkeeper Robert Enke, who committed suicide last Tuesday aged just 32 after a long battle against depression.

The game at Schalke 04’s stadium in Gelsenkirchen will be full of tributes to the Hannover 96 goalkeeper as both sides use the match to prepare for next June’s World Cup.

A minute’s silence will be observed, the Germany players will wear black armbands, Enke’s Number One shirt will be on the German bench and a video montage of his career will be played before kick-off.

German coach Joachim Löw, who has been deeply affected by Enke’s suicide, said he is not sure who will face the Ivory Coast and will see how his side trains.

“I think that after the memorial service, which was very important for us all to attend … we must now try to get back into a normal rhythm, to look ahead,” said Löw. “The next few days will of course be important for me as coach in order to observe the players and talk to them to see who is capable and who has the strength to perform well on Wednesday.”

With Germany’s first-choice goalkeeper Rene Adler injured, either Werder Bremen’s Tim Wiese or Manuel Neuer will take his place in goal.

Ballack, who had known Enke since he was 13, will be missing with a knee injury while his fellow Chelsea teammate Drogba has failed to recover from a chest injury he picked up against Manchester United recently.

With Ballack out, there may be a starting place for Bremen’s promising star Aaron Hunt, who qualifies for either Germany or England through his English mother.

Germany striker Miroslav Klose has not joined the squad after being quarantined for four days last week after his twin sons contracted swine flu.

Just like Löw’s Germany, the Ivory Coast qualified for the World Cup finals unbeaten at the top of their group and Drogba says the Elephants – coached by Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic – have lofty ambitions in South Africa.

“To make it to the final will not be easy because there are great teams like Brazil and Germany, who have won the World Cup for many years,’ he told FIFA’s website recently.

“But my teammates and I want to make history and want to change the way the world sees African football. I hope that we’ll be the team that is going to go to the final and win the

competition.”

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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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