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FOOTBALL

Swedish ref on handball goal: ‘It wasn’t my fault’

Martin Hansson, the much-criticized Swedish referee who last week missed a handball by French international Thierry Henry, has spoken out about the incident for the first time.

Swedish ref on handball goal: 'It wasn't my fault'

“I’ve wondered, is this job worth all the humiliation I’ve had to endure. The thought occurred to me that maybe this isn’t my thing,” Hansson told the local Sydöstran newspaper.

Hansson’s comments come following what he calls a “turbulent week” in the wake of a missed call which dashed Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The Swedish referee became the object of Irish ire when he allowed an extra-time goal by French defender William Gallas, following a pass from Henry which came moments after he had clearly handled the ball, according to video replays of the sequence.

The goal, which tied the match 1-1, meant that France would advance through to the World Cup in South Africa, while Ireland was sent packing.

Hansson found himself ridiculed in both the Swedish and international press for what one Aftonbladet commentator called the worst Swedish officiating mistake in decades.

Despite the criticism, however, Hansson said he realized he shouldn’t blame himself.

“It wasn’t my fault. It was an unfortunate event which had huge consequences for Ireland. But it wasn’t the officiating team’s fault,” he told the newspaper.

Hansson explained that a graphic compiled by British newspaper The Times helped show that neither he nor the linesmen had a clear line of sight to Henry’s handball.

“The graphic has vindicated the entire officiating team in the matter,” said Martin.

He was also comforted by supportive words from one of England’s most famous club trainers.

“It felt good to have Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, speak out on my behalf,” he told Sydöstran.

Hansson was upset, however, that foreign journalists had been bothering his parents at their home in southern Sweden in hopes of getting in touch with their referee son.

“I don’t understand the point of visiting my parents, who are 73- and 75-years-old. They certainly haven’t officiated any match,” he said.

On orders from FIFA, the governing body of international football, Hansson is still unable to comment specifically about the game.

And despite his thoughts about quitting, he is looking forward to his next match, most likely a Champions League game sometime in mid-December.

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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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