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FOOTBALL

Internet enables new wave of football violence

Since the turn of the year German football has been plagued with numerous incidents of a violent nature. Is Germany seeing the start of a new era of football hooliganism?

Internet enables new wave of football violence
VfB Stuttgart fans. Photo; DPA

Last weekend a mob of VfB Stuttgart fans attacked police with stones after their match against Hertha BSC. Police reported that 12 officers were injured. This is just the latest in a long line of recent incidents.

Sky pundit Marcel Reif has become the target of hatred via social networks, and his car was recently attacked by a group of BVB and Schalke fans when arriving to cover a match.

Three days later he was showered with beer bottles by Dortmund fans as he stood at the side of the pitch

Rainer Wendt, chairman of the German Police Union '(DPolG) said: "It's getting worse and worse. Sometimes it seems as if football will become the sport of fighting with the police.

"I get the feeling that action will only be taken when the first deaths occur."

The union is calling for extra measures that could aid police in their efforts, including nationwide life bans for repeat hooligans, which can currently only be handed out by individual clubs.

Another possible measure would be detaining violent hooligans on their way to the match, to stop troublemakers getting into the stadium.

Union chairman for Baden-Würtenmurg Joachim Lautensack painted a very worrying picture: "The lives of police officers in danger, violent attacks in broad daylight, and teams who have completely lost control. This is the intolerable situation we are facing."

A pattern is developing of violence being sparked online. People use anonymous to unload their hateful feelings, stir up tensions and start fights.

"Social networks offer people the opportunity to rage on a large scale and really let themselves go on their subjects," fan researcher Gunter A. Pilz told Die Welt.

In shocking scenes a few weeks ago, a group of Köln utras stormed the pitch at the final whistle of their local derby against Borussia Mönchengladbach dressed in white boiler suits.

The club is now facing serious punishment because of problems with hooligans over the last few years.

Köln ultras storm the pitch after local derby. Photo: DPA

The problems are not limited to the top tier either, as the second league is experiencing similar issues.

Since its foundation six years ago, RB Leipzig has been targeted by fans of other clubs for threatening the traditions of German football with an over-commercialization of the game.

The name RB Leipzig is a deliberate marketing ploy because the club was founded by drinks company Red Bull.

Although the club has already suffered attacks including damage to their pitch, match boycotts, and fan protests, recently the hate campaign has escalated.

During an away match at FC Erzgebirge Aue, home fans displayed banners comparing RB Leipzig owner Dietrich Mateschitz to a Nazi.

In the build up to the match between RB Leipzig and Karlsruhe, the Leipzig supporters' representative Enrico Hommel received a letter threatening violence should the fans support their team at the match.

A few hours before the match around 20 Karlsruhe fans stormed the dining room of the hotel where the Leipzig players were staying for the away fixture. Luckily the players were in their rooms and nobody was hurt.

Hooliganism: a global problem

There have certainly been a large number of incidents so far in 2015 in Germany, but is also important to place the problems in the wider context.

While British football seems to have largely consigned its hooliganism problems to the past of the 70s and 80s, the Premier League is more plagued by issues of racism at present.

Other European leagues are experiencing football related violence on a much bigger scale than in Germany.

In Spain, a 43 year-old man was killed last December during vicious fighting between fans of Deportivo La Coruna and Atlético Madrid.

In Greece the entire league has been suspended on three separate occasions because of the extreme extent of the violence and hooliganism. Other countries like Italy also have a terrible reputation for football related trouble.

Outside of Europe football stadiums have become the scenes of even worse tragedies. In February 22 people died as fans tried to force their way into a stadium in Cairo for an Egyptian league match.

And 14 supporters had to be taken to hospital after fans of Equatorial Guinea hurled missiles at Ghana fans for nearly 40 minutes during the 2015 African Cup of Nations.

Even though the scale of the incidents currently happening in Germany might not be on the same level as others taking place elsewhere, the frequency of the incidents remains worrying.

In the modern era, where the internet and particularly social media can so easily stir up hatred, the German football authorities must work extra hard to tackle these problems before they escalate into the kind of scenes witnessed in other parts of the world.

by Matty Edwards

SEE ALSO: Violence mars Dortmund-Galatasaray game

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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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