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FOOTBALL

Italy coach’s match-fixing trial to begin in April

Italy coach Antonio Conte is due in court to face match-fixing allegations on April 4th but should know his fate before Euro 2016 begins, Italian media said on Wednesday.

Italy coach's match-fixing trial to begin in April
Italy coach Antonio Conte should know his fate before Euro 2016 begins. Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP

The 46-year-old, rumoured to be a target for Chelsea to take over from Guus Hiddink at the end of this season, is accused of having failed to denounce an attempt to fix a match while coach of then-second division Siena against Albinoleffe in May 2011.

He has already served a four-month ban handed down by the Italian Football Federation in 2012 after being found guilty of the charge by a sporting court – his sentence was reduced from 10 months on appeal.

Conte, who was Juventus coach at the time of his conviction but was supported by his employers, did not want to head to Euro 2016 with the criminal charge brought by a court in Cremona still hanging over his head.

His lawyers asked for a shortened trial – a decision is due by around mid-May, according to Italian press reports – in order to find out before the Euros whether or not he will face a further sanction.

Conte has always denied any knowledge of the deal between players to fix the match, which his Siena side won 1-0, the same year they were promoted to Serie A and Conte earnt a move to Juve, the club he graced as a player for 13 years.

The calcioscommesse (football-betting) scandal broke in June 2011 and has seen many well-known figures from football serve bans for match-fixing, such as former Italy internationals Giuseppe Signori and Cristiano Doni.

Around 100 people are still awaiting trial accused with various roles in the vast corruption scandal.

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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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