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FOOTBALL

Update: Özil criticized for reportedly inviting Erdogan to his wedding

Angela Merkel's chief of staff on Monday joined the growing chorus of criticism of Arsenal's German midfielder Mesut Özil for reportedly inviting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to his wedding this summer as his witness.

Update: Özil criticized for reportedly inviting Erdogan to his wedding
An unverified photo of Ozil giving his wedding invitation to Erdogan, as acquired by DPA.

The 30-year-old Özil, who has Turkish family roots, sparked controversy last May when he was photographed with Erdogan, raising questions about the  footballer's loyalty to Germany on the eve of their disastrous World Cup campaign.

After 92 appearances for Germany, including a key role in the 2014 World 
Cup victory, Özil suddenly quit the national squad last July, accusing German football officials of racism.

SEE ALSO: No comeback for Mesut Özil after fallout, says Jogi Löw

On Sunday, Germany's top-selling tabloid Bild reported that Özil, 30, and his model fiancee Amine Gulse, 25, a former Miss Turkey, personally presented  Erdogan in Istanbul with an invitation to their wedding this summer, asking the Turkish leader to appear as the footballer's witness.

The invite immediately drew sharp criticism in Germany, whose government 
has been sharply at odds with Ankara over a range of human rights questions in recent years.

Helge Braun, a CDU politician and chief of staff to German Chancellor Merkel, told Bild it “makes one sad” that Özil would make a such a move despite having already been sharply criticised by the German public over his first meeting with Erdogan. 

“The fact that this has continued will have disappointed a lot of football fans – me too!” said Braun.

The politician accepted Özil's was “a private decison” which one must respect, but appealed to the footballer as a role model, especially for young Turks in Germany.

“Footballers are symbolic figures in our society, with whom people identify 
with much more than ministers,” added Braun.

“And so the question is raised: how much does someone wearing the German 
national jersey stand for Germany?”

'It's a pity'

Braun's comments come after German politician Cem Ozdemir, whose parents are Turkish, said on Sunday that he found it “inappropriate” for Ozil to 
invite the Turkish leader.

Özil– one of the world's most popular footballers on social media with 31 million followers on his official Facebook account, 19.1 million on Instagram account and 23.9 million on Twitter — has an obligation as a role model, added Ozdemir.

Another lawmaker, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, was equally unimpressed by his invitation to Erdogan.

“The wedding is the private matter of Mesut Özil, but he is a world star, who people look up to, so of course it's a pity from a political point of view,” Lambsdorff told newspaper Welt.

Özil has dated Gulse since 2017 and the couple announced their engagement in June 2018.

The Arsenal midfielder, a third-generation German, whipped up a political storm when he was pictured alongside Erdogan last May.

Criticism intensified after the red-faced defending champions crashed out of the first round of the World Cup in Russia.

In the wake of the World Cup fiasco, Özil announced his resignation from the national squad, saying: “I am German when we win, an immigrant when we lose”.

SEE ALSO: No comeback for Mesut Özil after fallout, says Jogi Löw

 

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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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