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FOOTBALL

Özil wants to sit out Turkey football clash

One of Germany’s high-profile ethnic Turkish footballers, Mesut Özil, has asked to sit out Friday’s match against Turkey to avoid angry Turkish fans – but has been told he has to play.

Özil wants to sit out Turkey football clash
Löw (left) and Özil. Photo:DPA

“I love Turkey as much as I do Germany,” he told Turkish daily newspaper Radikal.

“Even though we have already qualified, for me this will be the most difficult match of the competition.”

But the German Football Association (DFB) rejected his request to sit out the match, saying it could encourage bad habits, Radikal reported.

German-born Özil is often held up as a brilliant example of integration, yet when he first played for Germany against Turkey last year in Berlin he was booed by Turkish supporters, one of whom held up a placard reading, “We could’ve been cheering for you, Özil!”

The 23-year-old midfielder told Radikal on Wednesday that the booing last year had scuppered him, and that he had asked the DFB to sit out Friday’s match at Istanbul’s Türk Telekom Arena.

Although Germany has already qualified for the Euro 2012 finals, Turkey needs to do well in order to go through and Özil could face a sea of angry Turkish fans if things do not go their way.

Most of the player’s extended family still live in Turkey, so he explained to Radikal that he was aware of the prejudices many Turks still hold against him and that he would expect to be jeered at again.

His father Mustafa also spoke with Radikal.

“Özil is no different from [German born, Turkish players] Nuri, Hamit or Mehmet, but circumstances took them to the Turkish team and him the German. I wish people would accept his decision,” he said.

“In Germany today there are Turkish politicians in the Bundestag and Turkish professors in the universities. We Turks came here 50 years ago as guest workers and brought skills to contribute to the country. My son is a part of this and Turkey should be proud of him.”

Yet Özil sat out training on Wednesday, citing Achilles tendon pain, and has yet to train with the squad. Coach Joachim Löw has said a decision would be made about his fitness on Thursday; just 24 hours before the match.

Undefeated so far, Guus Hiddink’s team qualified following a 6 – 2 victory against Austria, and will be heading to the finals in Poland and Ukraine next year. Riding on a wave of nine consecutive victories, Hiddink said “I can see very few weaknesses [in the German team].”

However Löw admitted, “We have in fact a few question marks over our players,” as key strikers Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose are suffering from injuries. Their potential absence from the field could benefit Turkey, whose ticket to the finals still hangs in the balance despite two home wins in their string of six undefeated matches.

Turkey needs a better result against Germany than Belgium gets against Kazakhstan.

Turkish Left-back Gokhan Gonul said, “We know the power of Germany; they come with an unbeaten record in the group. We know it will be difficult, but not impossible.”

Özil told Radikal that he hoped, “Turkey reaches the next round in the Euro 2012 competition.”

The Local/AFP/jcw

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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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