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La Liga

CATALONIA CLUB, GIRONA STUNS SPAIN’S REAL MADRID

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Nigeria’s Kayode Olarenwaju played for eight minutes in Catalonia-based Girona’s 2-1 defeat of Spanish giants, Real Madrid in Sunday’s La Liga duel. Sports Village Square gathered from AP that the victory is seen more as a political feat by the Catalonia independence agitators as it was celebrated by many throughout Catalonia on Sunday.

The small Catalan club stunned Madrid, the team of the Spanish establishment, with a 2-1 come-from-behind win in the Spanish league — just days after the wealthy north-eastern region declared independence to heighten tensions in a dispute with the central government.

Pro-independence politicians were quick to celebrate. “Girona’s victory over one of the great teams in the world is an example and a reference for many situations,” tweeted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

It was Madrid’s first trip to Catalonia since Spain’s political crisis escalated. The match was played after hundreds of thousands of Catalans took to the streets of Barcelona to voice their opposition to the unilateral declaration of independence.

Catalonia’s political leadership was fired Saturday by central authorities in Madrid who are trying to tame the worst political turmoil Spain has seen in decades.

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“Today, all of Spain and a great part of the world saw that a small team can achieve anything in this great game of football when it does things well, when it has ambition and pride,” Girona coach Pablo Machin said.

The result left Madrid eight points behind Spanish league leader Barcelona, which on Saturday won 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao for its ninth victory in 10 league matches.

Second-place Valencia, which won 2-1 at Alaves on Saturday, is four points off the lead.

“We can still overcome this,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We will have better days and our rivals will eventually lose points.”

Despite security concerns ahead of the Spanish capital team’s visit to Girona, a city filled with separatist sentiment just north of Barcelona; there were no major incidents before, during or after the game.

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Several pro-independence flags were on display at the small Montilivi Stadium, and the crowd sang “freedom” chants, but nothing disrupted the match. A few Real Madrid supporters could be seen mixed with the local fans in the stands.

Most in the crowd of nearly 14,000 were on their feet throughout the final minutes, and celebrated loudly when the final whistle was blown.

Girona, in its inaugural season in the first division, played well from the start, keeping Madrid from imposing its game.

It almost opened the scoring just before Madrid’s first goal in the 12th minute, when Pablo Maffeo’s shot struck the far post. The Madrid defence picked up the rebound and started a quick counterattack which culminated with Isco scoring a few seconds later after Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot was partly saved by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

The hosts turned the match around with quick goals early in the second half. Veteran striker Christian Stuani equalized with a low shot from inside the area in the 54th, and Portu netted the winner four minutes later from close range. Replays showed that Portu was slightly offside.

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“We struggled a lot,” Madrid midfielder Casemiro said. “It’s a complicated moment, but we have to stay calm. We need to start playing better, we need to work harder.”

Lucas Vazquez had a goal disallowed for offside in the 83rd.

Girona, 12th in the standings with 12 points, had already hit the post in the first half.

Girona made a promising start to its top-flight debut, earning a draw against Atletico Madrid and a win at Malaga to give fans hopes of a successful season, but it went on a six-game winless streak until defeating Deportivo La Coruna last week.

Madrid was playing with all of its regular starters after they were rested in the Copa del Rey win over Fuenlabrada on Wednesday.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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La Liga

Napkin used by Barcelona to sign Messi sold for nearly $1 million

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A signed and framed napkin on which soccer club Barcelona promised to sign a 13-year-old Lionel Messi is displayed at the Bonhams auction house in London, Britain May 8, 2024. REUTERS/Will Russell/File Photo

The napkin on which Barcelona promised to sign Lionel Messi when he was a 13-year-old has been sold for 762,400 pounds ($969,000, auction house Bonhams said on Friday.

The napkin was signed in December, 2000 by Barca’s former sporting director Carles Rexach and transfer advisor Josep Minguella along with Argentine agent Horacio Gaggioli over lunch at a tennis club.

Messi became one of Barcelona’s greatest players, winning over 30 trophies and leaving the Catalan club as their all-time leading scorer with 672 goals.

He also won a record eight Ballon d’Or awards for the world’s best player and led Argentina to the World Cup crown in 2022. Messi now plays for U.S. club Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.

“Yes, it’s a paper napkin, but it’s the famous napkin that was at the inception of Lionel Messi’s career,” Ian Ehling, the head of fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams New York, said in a statement.

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“It changed the life of Messi, the future of FC Barcelona, and was instrumental in giving some of the most glorious moments of football to billions of fans around the globe.”

-Reuters

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Racially Abused Senegalese Goalkeeper Speaks Out After Abandoned Spanish Match –

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Racially Abused Senegalese Goalkeeper Speaks Out After Abandoned Spanish Match -

Senegalese goalkeeper Cheikh Sarr has heard racial slurs directed at him from the stands before, but when a fan allegedly approached just to racially insult him during a Spanish third-tier league game last Saturday, he decided he’d had enough.

“I grabbed him and asked why he was insulting me. My attitude was not aggressive, I just wanted to ask him why,” the 23-year-old told reporters on Tuesday of the incident in Sestao, a working-class town in northern Spain, which led to the game being abandoned.

“Other times it could be seen as something playful or a joke. However, this was not the case on Saturday, as it was something horrible and I could not stop myself. It was a very sad and ugly thing what they were saying,” he added.

The match between Sarr’s Rayo Majadahonda and Sestao River Club was suspended in the 84th minute after the altercation first led to Sarr being expelled by the referee, who was too far to hear the alleged insults, and then his team mates leaving the pitch in protest.

Racism in sport has been a hot topic in Spain, especially after Real Madrid’s Brazil winger Vinicius Jr, who has suffered from several incidents of racist abuse and is part of a campaign against racism, last year called LaLiga and Spain racist.

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On Saturday, he spoke out in support of those affected on social media again, citing “three despicable cases of racism” on that day alone, including Sarr’s.

Sevilla’s Argentina defender Marcos Acuna and coaching staff were also the target of “racist and xenophobic insults” from fans in a LaLiga game at Getafe, the club said.

Sarr said he was thankful that Vinicius had tagged him on social media showing support.

“If more players said no to racism like he does, they (racists) wouldn’t have the power they have now,” he said.

Reuters

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Sex-convict, Alves Spends First Day Of Provisional Freedom With All-night Party –

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Former Barcelona star, Brazilian Dani Alves, who was provisionally released from prison after over a year in prison celebrated his temporary reprieve with an all-night party.

Although his release from prison was temporary, after he was convicted and faces a 4-and-a-half-year prison sentence, Italian newspaper,  Corriere dello Sport reported that the Brazilian organized a noisy party to celebrate his father’s birthday.

The newspaper indicated that Alves held this party last Tuesday, and continued until five in the morning in the presence of family and friends, to celebrate his father on the one hand, and also to enjoy his freedom on the other hand after spending a long period behind bars.

The camera of the Spanish “Telefónico” network was following the steps of the legend of the oldest Brazilian player to participate in the World Cup, until he arrived at his home, located 25 minutes from downtown Barcelona.

The first thing Alves did after arriving at his home was to order a large amount of “burgers” for dinner, the first meal that the former right-back ate after his release from the “Brian 2” prison in Barcelona.

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According to several Spanish media outlets, Alves distributed his belongings  such as clothes and a small fan to the prisoners who had been by his side for more than 430 days,

Alves, 40, was accused of raping a woman in a nightclub, and was sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison last February, before a decision was issued for his conditional release

 

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