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FOOTBALL

Fights, riots and smoke bombs mar Swedish football derby

Sunday’s football derby between Stockholm area clubs AIK and Hammarby devolved into minor chaos, according to police.

Fights, riots and smoke bombs mar Swedish football derby
AIK fans light flares during Sunday's match. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT
The restaurant area surrounding Friends Arena saw at least one violent attack, three mini-riots and a number of smoke bomb attacks. 
 
Following the match in Solna, which AIK won 2-0, one fan was severely beaten in an attack that left him unconscious. According to the police report, the incident occurred outside of a restaurant in the Råsunda area and the male victim had to be transported by ambulance to the hospital. The victim is in his mid-40s and suffered “serious injuries”, police said. 
 
Police also responded to reports that unruly fans threw smoke bombs into one or more restaurants, and officers additionally had to contend with “three violent riots and numerous fights”. Some football fans also reportedly threw rocks at the police. 
 
 
The police report said that two people were arrested on riot charges, but no arrests had been made for the violent attack on the 40-something male victim or an unspecified separate attack that caused another victim to be transported to hospital. 
 
Violence and riots are not uncommon at Swedish football matches, especially when rivals like AIK and Hammarby face off. An August 2017 match between AIK and Djurgården, another bitter Stockholm area rival, was marred by violent clashes before the action even got underway and ultimately ended with 171 people being held in temporary police custody. 
 
In another incident, an October 2016 derby between Djurgården and Hammarby was suspended and six people were arrested for rioting after supporters threw flares and projectiles at security personnel then climbed the barricades. The referee removed players from the pitch and suspended the game for almost 30 minutes while police worked to end the confrontation.
 
Scuffles even broke out between supporters of the same teams during an U21 match earlier that year. A month later, Sweden legend Henrik Larsson and his son were targeted by angry fans following a Helsingborg match, after which Zlatan Ibrahimovic recommended violent fans should “step inside an Octagon cage and settle it there” instead.
 
 
In 2014, football violence hit a shocking new level when a 44-year-old male Djurgården fan died from head injuries he suffered during a mass brawl between Djurgården and Helsingborgs IF. Hooligans have also attacked players and referees on the pitch, caused fires to break out in the stands and turned their ire on police.
 
In an effort to try to cut down on the problems the Swedish government has brought in a ban on wearing masks at stadiums.
 
 

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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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