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FOOTBALL

Police investigate Sancho incident amid fan trouble in Dortmund

German police are investigating an incident in which England international Jadon Sancho was struck by what appeared to be a cigarette lighter thrown from the away block during Borussia Dortmund's 4-2 defeat to local rivals Schalke on Saturday.

Police investigate Sancho incident amid fan trouble in Dortmund
Jadon Sancho after being hit by a fan's lighter. Photo: INA FASSBENDER / AFP
A number of arrests were made amid trouble from both sets of fans, during a tense day on which Schalke dealt a severe blow to their rivals' Bundesliga title bid. 
 
TV footage showed Sancho, 19, being hit by a projectile as he celebrated Dortmund's opening goal with teammates just in front of the Schalke fan section. He was briefly taken off the pitch for treatment, but returned to play the rest of the game. 
 
In a statement on Saturday, police said they had opened criminal proceedings on the basis of aggravated battery. 
 
The Ruhr derby is generally subjected to a high level of security, with hundreds of police officers deployed to keep opposing fan groups separated both at the game and on their way to and from the stadium. 
 
 
Saturday's game in Dortmund was nonetheless overshadowed by a handful of ugly incidents, involving what police called an “unteachable and violent minority” of fans. 
 
Before the game, a group of Schalke fans attempted to storm the turnstiles, leading to delays in security checks. At full time a group of Dortmund fans attempted to break their way into the away block, but were beaten back by officers. The police also confirmed the use of pepper spray in a confrontation at a local metro station. 
 
In total, police confirmed they had taken 13 people into custody and filed charges against 36 people, both for assault and breaches of the Explosives Act. 
 
The police statement said that the use of flares in the home block towards the end of the game had left six people injured, two of which were hospitalised. Schalke fans also set off flares at kick-off, unleashing a cloud of blue smoke across the field. 
 
They later held up a tasteless banner demanding the release of Sergei Wenergold, the man who was jailed for attempted murder after a bomb attack on the Dortmund team bus in 2017. 
 
Former Dortmund player Marc Bartra, who was injured in the 2017 attack, condemned the banner on Twitter, saying that it was “unacceptable” and “sad”.  
 
“Rivalry in football is one thing, it is quite another to demand freedom for someone who played with the lives of 28 people,” wrote the Spanish defender, who now plays in Seville for Real Betis.
 

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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