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FOOTBALL

Löw pleads with German fans not to boo Gundogan, Ozil at World Cup

Joachim Löw has called on German fans to stop booing Ilkay Gundogan and Mesut Ozil after the Premier League stars found themselves at the centre of a political row.

Löw pleads with German fans not to boo Gundogan, Ozil at World Cup
Football coach Joachim Löw at a press conference in Russia on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Gundogan and Ozil, who were born in Gelsenkirchen to Turkish parents, were jeered and whistled by fans during pre-World Cup friendlies after posing for a photo alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Gundogan presented Erdogan with a Manchester City shirt signed “to my president” but said the meeting was not politically motivated, while Ozil has refused to comment. 

“My job is to get both players, who have certainly suffered from this situation, in good shape,” said the head coach on Wednesday at Germany's first press conference in Russia.

“It may be that these players will still be accompanied by whistles. So be it. I wish it were otherwise. My job is to get them in the flow to help the team.”  

READ ALSO: German or Turkish? Footballers' meeting with Erdogan stokes identity debate

The defending world champions play their first match against Mexico in Moscow on Sunday.

Steffen Effenberg is the latest ex-Germany international to say the pair should be thrown out of the team over the scandal.

In a bid to convince German fans they are committed to the German team, Gundogan and Ozil met Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before the World Cup and Löw asked fans to get behind the pair — so far to no avail.

The German Football Association is exasperated by the situation, which the refuses to go away in the German media.

DFB president Reinhard Grindel believes there is little more the players can do.

“If you take Ilkay Gundogan, he immediately made it clear he had made a mistake and talked to the president (Steinmeier). He has done everything he could,” said the DFB chief. “Nevertheless, he was booed.

“I think there has to be something deeper, a social-political issue, and the argument that it would all be over if Ozil voiced his stance has been refuted by the example of Gundogan.

“Now, everyone should work for Germany and give it their all. If he (Ozil) doesn't want to give an answer, then hopefully he will on the pitch.”

SEE ALSO: World Cup 2018 – A casual fan's guide to the German team

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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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