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FOOTBALL

Dozens hurt as football thugs rampage in Naples

Police in Naples have made dozens of arrests following clashes between fans of Napoli and Legia Warsaw ahead of the sides' Europa League fixture on Thursday, according to reports in Italy.

Dozens hurt as football thugs rampage in Naples
Napoli's feared 'ultras' have clashed with fans of Legia Warsaw in Naples. Photo: Carlo Hermann/AFP

Fights first broke out on Wednesday night in the area surrounding the Capodichini airport in Naples, where seven arrests were made according to a web report in the Gazzetta dello Sport.

Two Bulgarians, said to be from clubs 'twinned' with Napoli's hardline 'ultra' supporter groups, were among those arrested.

The violence continued in the Piazza Garibaldi area of central Naples, where seven Poles were arrested following running battles with Napoli ultras during which iron bars and other weapons were used, said the report.

In a separate incident, four men from Naples were attacked by fans of the Polish first division club and their car was set on fire.

A report on Rainews.it said 65 Polish nationals were being held in Naples police cells while awaiting identity checks.

Police chiefs in Naples, meanwhile, have confirmed 14 officers suffered injury during the clashes.

Ultras from the Polish club are among the most feared in Europe, while ultras from Napoli are considered the most hardline in Italy.

In spite of their relative lack of success – Napoli have won only two league titles (1987, 1990) and one Uefa Cup (1989) – the 'Partenopei' are among Serie A's best supported clubs.

Rivalries among ultra fans in Italy now rarely make the headlines, although in 2014 that all changed when a Napoli fan, Ciro Esposito, died after being shot on the fringes of the Italian Cup final in Rome between Napoli and Fiorentina.

A Roma ultra, Daniele De Santis, was later charged and convicted of Esposito's death.

The Europa League, UEFA's second tier club competition, has given hardline fans around Europe the opportunity to spread their notoriety.

In February 2015, ultras from Dutch club Feyenoord ran riot in the Italian capital, causing thousands of euros worth of damages to famous city landmarks ahead of a Europa League fixture with Roma.

Earlier this season, Marseille hooligans ran riot in the Dutch city of Groningen ahead of the sides' Europa League clash.

Days before that fixture, Dutch police were on hand in Amsterdam to protect visiting Celtic fans from Ajax hooligans two years after fans of the Scottish champions were attacked in the city.

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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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