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    Meet England Euros hero Ollie Watkins’ supportive Wag Ellie Alderson who was seen kissing Three Lions star in the stands

    WHEN Ollie Watkins became England’s hero with his last-minute strike to down the Netherlands in the Euro 2024 semi, the nation celebrated ecstatically.But when TV cameras panned to the stands, they caught sight of his beautiful partner, Ellie Alderson.Ollie Watkins’ partner is the stunning Ellie AldersonCredit: Instagram @ellsaldersonGorgeous Ellie has been seen in the stands cheering England onAfter the final whistle against Netherlands, Ellie and Watkins shared a kissCredit: SplashWearing an England top with his name and number on the back, she was spotted jumping up and down wildly in the stands.At the final whistle, Aston Villa forward Watkins joined his missus and celebrated with a loving embrace.Gorgeous Ellie has been with Ollie through his meteoric rise, playing the role of supportive Wag.Together, they have two children – and are the happiest of families.Read more football news They have been seen at Villa Park, celebrating the end of the season in front of the home fans.”Wow! What a season!!” she wrote in a caption of them together. “Haven’t stopped crying happy tears since it started.”Sooo proud of you. Your hard work is paying off and you deserve every part of it ❤️ and how lucky are the kids and I to witness it all. Love you OW❤️.”Most read in Euro 2024While Ellie, 28, has her own sideline as an interior designer.RISE OF WATKINSGlam coupleWatkins and Ellie have been together since 2018.In 2020, she was by his side as the former Brentford striker was crowned Championship Player of the Year at the London Football Awards.She turned heads in a little black dress, while Watkins looked dapper in a navy tuxedo and bow tie.Their romance soon blossomed and they became inseparable.They started a family – with the loved-up pair welcoming their first child, Amara, in September 2021.They added to their brood with the birth of Marley last year.Alderson, herself, is originally from Berkshire.She graduated from university with a diploma in interior design.She takes pride in her work, sharing her own Instagram page ‘Ellie Anderson Home’ which features all her home interiors designs.And Ellie has a twin, Sophia, who she often shares pictures with.Her brother Ben is a published fantasy and contemporary fiction author.Watkins and Ellie cut a fine looking pair at the London Football Awards in 2020Ellie boasts a degree in interior designCredit: Instagram @ellsaldersonEllie lives a glam lifestyle as a footballers’ WagCredit: Instagram @ellsaldersonEllie has been with Watkins every step of the way during his football careerEllie has a twin sister while her brother is a published authorread more sport featuresReal fashionistaDespite her glam lifestyle, Ellie is thrifty.She has a Depop account, where she has sold designer clothing from her collection.The gorgeous brunette has an eye for fashion – with a designer wardrobe and accessories by the likes of Tom Ford, Loewe and Van Cleef & Arples.Like any footballer’s Wag, Ellie lives an amazing lifestyle.The family go on dream holidays, from Ibiza to Maldives – living a life of luxury.Celebrate good timesEllie has been a constant at the Euros in Germany.She has appeared alongside the Three Lions stars’ Wags in the stands, supporting their football star partners.Watkins’ dream moment came in the 90th minute against Netherlands, when his angled shot rifled into the back of the net.It was the crowning moment of what has been an epic year for the forward.Meet England’s Euro 2024 WagsEngland Wags range from childhood sweethearts to recently blossoming love stories.Katie Goodland (Harry Kane’s wife)The fitness instructor has been married to the England captain since 2019 and joined him in Germany with their four children after he joined Bayern Munich.Laura Celia Valk (Jude Bellingham’s girlfriend)The stunning Dutch model, 25, has more than half a million Instagram followers and is said to be absolutely smitten with the Real Madrid star.Rebecca Cooke (Phil Foden’s girlfriend)Foden’s childhood sweetheart and the mother of his two kids tends to keep out of the spotlight, but is a regular at England games.Dani Dyer (Jarrod Bowen’s girlfriend)England’s most famous Wag, former Love Island winner and daughter of Eastenders’ Danny Dyer.Iris Law (Trent Alexander-Arnold’s girlfriend)Dani Dyer isn’t the only actor’s daughter dating an England star. Iris’ dad is Hollywood legend Jude Law.Megan Davison (Jordan Pickford’s wife)Megan has been with Pickford since he was 14 years old. The couple married in 2022 and have one son.Olivia Naylor (John Stones’ girlfriend)The 33-year-old former beautician has stepped back from her role after giving birth to a baby son.Read more about the Wags supporting England at Euro 2024 hereFashionista Ellie has a penchant for designer wear and expensive Dior handbagsCredit: Instagram @ellsaldersonWatkins and Ellie proudly show of their two children at Villa ParkCredit: Instagram @ellsaldersonWatkins and Ellie first got together six years agoThe pair are still going very strong as Ellie plays the role of supportive WagAnd that was recognised by Ellie after the game.READ MORE SUN STORIESShe dedicated a post on Instagram to her beloved writing: “You got your moment and you took it!!!!! I am soooo proud of you.”Ellie, you echoed the thoughts of a nation.Roar them onIf you want to help the England team to Euro 2024 glory… here’s your chance.On Sunday they will face Spain in the biggest game of their lives and we are giving YOU and your children the opportunity to send messages of support.Tell us who your favourite player is, tell us how you plan to watch them and send us pictures of your little ones in their England kit helping the Three Lions get to glory.To send our boys – including manager Gareth Southgate, captain Harry Kane, goalie Jordan Pickford and our goal-scoring genius Ollie Watkins – a message and photo simply sundayfeatures@the-sun.co.uk.  Please send us your phone number too so we can get in touch.    More

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    Meet incoming Man Utd transfer signing Joshua Zirkzee, who was rejected by Bayern Munich and dates a JD Sports model

    JOSHUA ZIRKZEE will add much-needed firepower to Manchester United’s attack next season.The Dutch forward, 23, seems destined to play his football at Old Trafford next season, after the Red Devils agreed to pay his £34million release clause to his club Bologna.Joshua Zirkzee has taken Serie A by stormCredit: AFPDutch forward Zirkzee featured for Netherlands in the EurosCredit: GettyZirkzee cut short a holiday in Florida and visit to Disney World to link with the Netherlands squadCredit: instagram @zirkzeePersonal terms have also been reportedly agreed, with Zirkzee set to put pen to paper on a deal imminently.The 6ft 4in striker is on international duty with the Netherlands at Euro 2024, although he has only played three minutes in the tournament.After bouncing around around Dutch clubs Ado Den Haag and Feyenoord as a youth, he was snapped up by Bayern Munich when he was 16.However, he failed to establish himself with the Bavarians and was sent on loans to Parma and Anderlecht, before moving permanently to Bologna.Read more Man Utd newsIn Serie A, he earned his stripes – receiving a glowing endorsement from Sweden legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic.While he also showed his commitment to his country, cutting short a dream holiday to Disneyland to join Ronald Koeman’s squad, following a late call-up.Off the pitch, Zirkzee featured in a JD Sports ad alongside his beautiful girlfriend, Celina Kerr.He has also appeared as a model for urban leisure wear brand, No Face No Case.Most read in FootballEarly yearsZirkzee has admitted in the past he had no ‘Plan B’. He only wanted to be a footballer growing up.He grew up in Spijkenisse, South Netherlands where he spent most of his time playing on the Johan Cruyff football courts.Watch Man Utd star Antony show off hidden talent as fans say ‘he’s finding another job already'”I think what the USA has with basketball courts, we have in Holland with the five-a-side pitches,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.”It makes you tough, you have to be smarter, you have to find a way to keep up with guys that are bigger and stronger than you. I learned on the streets – and that’s where creativity comes to life.”In 2016, after three years with Ado Den Haag, Zirkzee signed with Feyenoord.His heavyweight boxer stature, even evident then, saw him stand out among his peers.In under a year with the Dutch giants, Bayern Munich made Zirkzee an offer that he couldn’t refuse.It was a bitter split from Feyenoord, as the Germans swooped in – convincing the then 16-year-old his development would be best served with them.But in truth…It really wasn’t.Zirkzee did make his breakthrough into the first team in 2019, and appeared destined to be their next No9.He scored twice in his first eight minutes of Bundesliga action, across games against Freiburg and Wolfsburg at the tender age of 18.As youngster, Zirkzee rose through the ranks at Bayern MunichCredit: GettyBut Zirkzee failed to get a run in the first team and sent out on loan for game timeCredit: GettyHowever, despite playing a small part in Bayern’s treble-winning campaign, he struggled to assert himself as a starter.In 2021, understanding his need to play more football, Zirkzee was sent on loan to Parma.He would play just four games until a knee injury meant he had to return back to Munich.Four months later, he would join Belgians Anderlecht for a season long loan.Not only would it put him in the shop window, it would allow him to build his confidence up playing regularly.SuccessThe move proved to be a masterstroke for both player and club.Zirkzee would find his feet playing under Vincent Kompany, who once blasted him for a poor performance during a team talk in a leaked video that surfaced online.Still, it got the best out of the target man.He was the club’s top scorer with a 16 goals in 38 league games.Vincent Kompany lays into Zirkzee in a video that circulated online of a dressing room teamtalkZirkzee returned to Bayern Munich after his Anderlecht loan, but was surplus to requirementsCredit: GettyZirkzee also showed he wasn’t a selfish player, recording nine assists for his team-mates during the campaign.After his successful loan, there was talk he might get his chance at the Allianz Arena.However, an £8million offer from Bologna, which included a 50 per cent sell on clause was too good to turn down.Big breakZirkzee was brought to the Italian club to partner former West Ham man Marko Arnautovic up front.A month after he was unveiled, Thiago Motta became boss. The Italian had different ideas.Arnautovic got the nod, with Zirkzee confessing: “I wasn’t ready mentally, not like Motta wanted anyway.”The understudy sat on the bench and watched the Austrian forward in action – learning about leading the line and the movement Motta wanted from his lone striker.At the beginning of the 2023-24 season, Zirkzee would get his opportunity after Arnautovic was sold to Inter Milan.”The time came to take a step forward,” he explained to the Corriere, “to take on more responsibility, to demonstrate that I was ready and take advantage of the opportunity.”Zirkzee signed for Bologna where he would go on to get his big breakInitially, Zirkzee played second fiddle to Marko Arnautovic – getting the odd appearanceCredit: GettyAnd he did just thatSpearheading Bologna’s attack, Zirkzee would take his chance.A stunning season in the club’s history saw them earn Champions League qualification for the very first time.The Dutchman’s contribution was integral to their success – scoring 11 goals and providing five assists.Former Torino coach Ivan Juric compared him to Zlatan Ibrahimovic after one encounter between the clubs.”He’s an atypical striker that manages to score a lot of goals,” the Croatian added.Ibrahimovic, a senior advisor with AC Milan, said of Zirkzee: “I like him, he’s a good player with very good potential.”It would prompt I Rossoneri to plot a move for the talent, although it appears he has always had his eyes set on joining Manchester United.Soon, Zirkzee became a fans’ favourite under boss Thiago MottaCredit: Alamy6ft 4in forward Zirkzee was also praised by Zlatan Ibahimovic who recognised his talentCredit: Rexread more sport featuresModel lifeAway from the pitch, Zirkzee reportedly dates the stunning model Celina.The influencer and model boasts almost 100,000 followers on Instagram.She reportedly graduated in Berlin with a degree in Media and Communication Management.They have kept their personal lives private on social media, but they were once seen embracing each other on a Valentine’s Day video shoot with JD Sports.The couple wore unisex tracksuits sold by the sports wear giant in the digital ad campaign, which was shared by Celina on her Instagram feed to her followers.READ MORE SUN STORIESCelina Kerr reportedly dates Man Utd bound ZirkzeeCredit: Instagram @ celinajadakerrStunning Celina is a mode who has over 100,000 followers on InstagramCredit: Instagram @ celinajadakerrZirkzee and Celina shot a JD Sports promo campaign on Valentine’s DayZirkzee has also modelled for streetwear brand No Face No CaseHandsome Zirkzee has also modelled streetwear by online brand, No Face No Case.United fans will be hoping the towering frontman is a model pro, too. 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    Inside Jordan Pickford’s penalty saving technique, from using historic trends to save spot kicks to his dive execution

    JORDAN PICKFORD has regularly been the hero when it comes to a penalty shootout for his country.The England and Everton goalkeeper, 30, saved Manuel Akanji’s effort for Switzerland to hand the Three Lions an advantage in their shootout win in their Euro 2024 quarter-final.Jordan Pickford’s penalty saving prowess was on display against the SwissCredit: APPickford’s water bottle trick has been highlighted, although he has other strategiesCredit: GettyNow, with the help of Goalkeeper.com – who support elite-level clubs and organisations by using a forensic approach to goalkeeper recruitment, performance and development – we’ve uncovered Pickford’s penalty-saving technique.Join SunSport in what makes the shotstopper so strong, and if it goes to pens against Netherlands on Wednesday, why Three Lions fans should feel confident.Uses historic trendsPickford is well prepared when it comes to facing the ball from 12-yards.His water bottle trick has become infamous with the list of penalty takers and direction of shot taped on to it.Read more football newsHowever in the Swiss shootout, Pickford ‘listened’ to the bottle three out of four times, and the bottle was correct three out of four times.Sadly for Pickford, he only got the direction correct twice. The penalty when he dived ‘against’ the bottle saw Fabian Schar put the ball where the bottle recommended.While, Zeki Amdouni went central rather than to Pickford’s left.Although this is going against his research, it is a good thing.Most read in Euro 2024You cannot always listen blindly to most probable placements, and a goalkeeper’s intuition should also play a role.That human element remains important.Jordan Pickford checks water bottle cheat sheet before England’s penalty shootout win over SwitzerlandUtilises a mixed strategyBeing a goalkeeper is often called the ‘loneliest job’ in the world.And when it comes to penalties, your team-mates are solely reliant upon your strategy to save one.Often, we’ve seen goalies who prefer to favour one side – and continuously dive one way.However, Pickford adopts a mixed strategy.Sometimes, he will dive to the power side – saving from Jorginho in the Euro 2020 final.For Everton last season, he stayed in the middle and relied on his reactions to save a James Maddison strike in a Premier League game against Leicester City in 2023.His save from Akanji in the Swiss shootout was made on the placement side.Pickford dives to his ‘power side’ to stop Jorginho scoring from 12 yardsCredit: GettyOften, Pickford adopts a mixed strategy – like when he stayed in the middle to save from James MaddisonCredit: GettyTechnical execution of diveGoalkeepers are hindered during penalty shootouts – with the Fifa rulebook meaning they have to stay on the line until the shot is taken.That means the lift off of your dive has to be executed a certain way.Pickford launches himself from his back foot behind the line, pushes his body weight forwards, makes no large negative step and keeps both hands active to make the save.This was put into effect when he made saves from Italy’s Andrea Belotti and Colombia’s Carlos Bacca at the 2018 World Cup.An example of a large negative step is shown below by France goalkeeper Mike Maignan in his country’s 5-3 shootout win over Portugal in their recent quarter-final.Maignan initially starts in the middle of the goal then moves his right foot way back across to the left side of the goal before pushing off to dive to his right.This, therefore, means his leading diving hand hits the ground way short of the far post, making Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty impossible to save even though it went into the goal over a yard from the far post.In comparison, when facing up to Belotti, Pickford starts in the middle of the goal, like Maignan.When saving penalties, Pickford launches himself from his back foot behind the line and pushes his body weight forwardsCredit: EPAIn comparison, French goalkeeper Maignan takes a negative step – impacting his chances of making a savePickford does not move in a negative direction before his diveread more sport featuresHowever, he does not move in a negative direction before his dive. Instead, he moves slightly further left before pushing off, therefore his leading diving hand hits the ground far closer to the far post.This means he saves Belloti’s penalty comfortably as he covers far more goal area in a far shorter time.Club vs country metricsInterestingly, Pickford is better at saving penalties in shootouts for England than in his overall career average, and better at saving in shootouts vs in game.Clearly, Pickford performs better in an England shirt and when there is bigger pressure.But that could also be explained because he’s coming up against penalty takers that wouldn’t usually take them.Still, Pickford is far better than previous England goalkeepers who were actually one of the main drivers behind the Three Lions losing previous shootouts – and not the players who missed penalties.Previous No1’s failed to save penalties above the average rate our competitors were doing.READ MORE SUN STORIESWhen it comes to penalties, Pickford performs better for his country than his clubPickford saves at an above average rate.Netherlands, you have been warned. 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    Inside Jack Grealish and Sasha Attwood’s relationship from high-school romance to career highs and baby reveal

    JACK GREALISH and Sasha Attwood’s romance is going up a notch.The Man City star and his model girlfriend, both 28, have announced they are expecting their first child together.The focus is always on Jack Grealish and Sasha Attwood – football’s most glam coupleCredit: AFPGrealish and Sasha are childhood sweethearts who got together at secondary schoolCredit: Social Media – Refer to SourceJack Grealish and Sasha Attwood have announced she is expecting their first childThe outrageously attractive couple shared the news on social media with a heartwarming post to their millions of delighted fans.Sasha shared a picture of her baby bump and the caption: “Half of me, half of you – beyond blessed ✨🤍🙏🏻.”Grealish added: “Life’s biggest blessing 👶🏻.”It’s the icing on the cake for football’s most delectable pairing.Read more football newsThe pair met as teens in Solihull, West Midlands at secondary school and haven’t looked back.Jack has conquered the football world, winning the Premier League and Champions League.While beautiful model Sasha has appeared in ad campaigns for the likes of Boohoo, L’Oreal, Pretty Little Thing, Lipsy and GHD.Those career highs mean the pair can enjoy a glam lifestyle, including five-star holidays.Most read in FootballSunSport delves into their romance – starting from the beginning.Teenage kicksGrealish was on his way to becoming a professional footballer when he met Sasha.LETS LOOSE Jack Grealish dons hilarious shoulder-length blonde WIG as he lets his hair down after England exile (1)Already ploughing through the youth ranks at Aston Villa, he was a popular boy of St Peter’s Roman Catholic Secondary School.His good looks made him a favourite among the girls, even at that age.At 13, Sasha was already recognised for her beauty.She was spotted by a talent scout for a modelling agency while out on a shopping trip with her mum in Birmingham.The gorgeous blonde would go on star in shoots for House of Fraser in her early years.It wasn’t until both Grealish and Sasha turned 16 when they started dating.Their relationship escalated quicklyDespite the longterm nature of their relationship, Sasha remained on the sidelines as Grealish’s career took off.He was reportedly happy to purvey the image of a single man to aid his image.And she didn’t have any insecurities when it came to their relationship, so a happy medium was found and their kept social media interactions to modest level.However, intense interest in Grealish and his private life came to a head in 2021.Not only did he play a starring role as England reached the final of Euro 2020, delayed a year because of Covid.As Grealish rose through the ranks at Aston Villa, Sasha was happy to take a backseatSasha and Grealish’s romance came under the spotlight at Euro 2021Stunning beauty Sasha revealed she received death threats daily on social mediaGrealish also earned a blockbuster British record transfer to Man City for £100million.It was an immense time in his life, but Sasha was faced with her own difficulties.Because of their romance, she was cruelly targeted by trolls on TikTok and Instagram to the tune of 200 death threats a day.Sasha revealed: “They said, ‘I hope you get cancer and die’ or ‘I hope your whole family dies’.“They say, ‘I hope the next time you’re in the car you crash it and die, I hope after Wembley you die’.”Speaking on her YouTube channel, she added: “I was receiving 200 death threats a day. I’m not exaggerating when I say that.“I had so many messages every single day. I still get them now, all day every day.”Sasha needn’t worryJealousy was clearly a factor for her abusers, as Sasha’s own career began to take off.She signed to Elite Model Management, where the work piled in.The fashion influencer, who can count on an army 300,000 Instagram followers for likes and comments, then follow in Grealish’s footsteps as a model for Boohoo.Pretty Little Thing also used Sasha to endorse their products.Grealish and Sasha ignored the haters as their careers took offCredit: https://www.instagram.com/sasha__rebecca/?hl=enFootballer Grealish and model Sasha became hot properties in fashionBrands like L’Oreal and Pretty Little Thing asked Sasha to endorse their productsread more sport featuresWhile skincare tutorials in partnership with L’Oreal draw plenty of eyes to her social media accounts.Sasha, herself, became a hot commodity for brands.Who said romance is dead?Making time for one another has allowed Grealish and Sasha to thrive as a couple.Over the years, Grealish has enjoyed lads’ breaks in Las Vegas and Ibiza – but Sasha always comes first.Back in 2022, they celebrated their 10-year anniversary like many loved-up couple would.They cuddled up on the sofa and watched romantic movie The Notebook from a projector.Then, at Halloween that same year, Grealish and Sasha dressed as Grease’s Danny and Sandy – with matching T-Birds leather jackets.A couple in unison, romantic getaways were also the order of the day.If Jack did go away with the boys, Sasha was treated to her own five-star holiday.The most notable came in 2023, when Grealish whisked his beloved off to the legendary Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the South of France.World’s away from Cheshire, where they live in a £6million mansion, the resort boasts rooms that cost up to £14,000-per-night.Grealish and Sasha got into the spirit of Halloween by dressing as Danny and Sandy from GreaseWhen they get away, Grealish and Sasha do it in styleGrealish once whisked Sasha off to the South of France, where they stayed at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-RocJust a short drive from the glitz and glamour of Cannes, the hotel has played host to some of the biggest names in history including Picasso and Cary Grant.A new challengeJack and Sasha are getting ready to embrace parenthood.Their announcement on social media was met with a chorus of well-wishes from the footballing fraternity.England pal Jude Bellingham replied: “Congrats brother❤️.”While Three Lions skipper Harry Kane said: “Congratulations!! ❤️❤️.”The later could act as inspiration for Grealish, with family man Kane juggling life as an international footballer and devoted dad seemingly with ease.READ MORE SUN STORIESSasha Attwood shared her baby news on InstagramGrealish and Sasha are getting ready to embrace parenthood togetherCredit: InstagramSasha famously modelled maternity gear for BoohooInterestingly, Sasha already modelled maternity wear for a Boohoo range.Now, maybe it’s a photoshoot she can revisit for real this time. 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    Inside football juggernaut’s 35-year curse featuring seven buried cats, an exorcism, bankruptcy and relegation by rivals

    MANY followers of the beautiful game believe in the power of curses and superstitions.From Béla Guttmann’s Benfica curse which has seen the club fail to win European silverware since 1962, to Birmingham’s 100-year curse at St Andrews and Harry Kane’s trophy curse, belief is a powerful tool.Racing Club’s rivalry with Independiente is huge in ArgentinaCredit: GettyThe Avellaneda derby has the two clubs just 370 metres apartCredit: GettyA stunning curse saw seven black cats buried under Racing Club’s stadiumCredit: AFP or licensorsThe curse was in place for 35 yearsCredit: AP:Associated PressBut one so-called curse hailing from Argentina is almost too wild to be believed.This legend takes us to Buenos Aires for the Avellaneda derby of Racing Club and Independiente – the country’s second-most important derby behind Boca Juniors and River Plate.Their two stadiums, El Cilindro de Avellaneda (now Estadio Presidente Perón) and Estadio Libertadores de América sit just 370 metres apart, marginally more than Dundee and Dundee United’s 322 metres.The tale of the curse features the burial of seven black cats, an exorcism, toads, relegation, near-bankruptcy and title glory.READ MORE IN FOOTBALLBut before we get into the details of this legend, it is important to understand the history that came before.Racing Club were the definition of a football powerhouse in the early 20th century. Racing Club honoursList of Racing Club’s main honoursPrimera División x18 – Racing Club’s tally of seven titles in a row between 1913 and 1919 puts them in an elite club featuring just four other teams who have managed to do the same; Lyon, Bayern Munich and Juventus.Segunda División x3Intercontinental Cup 1967Copa Libertadores 1967Supercopa Libertadores 1988Trofeo de Campeones de la Liga Profesional 2022Supercopa Internacional 2022They were the first club in the world to win seven league titles in a row (1913 to 1919) – five of which were undefeated – and the first Argentine club to win a national cup.Racing, also known as La Academia due to their footballing excellence, were also the first Argentine club world champions after winning the Intercontinental Cup in 1967 by beating Celtic.Most read in FootballBEST FREE BET SIGN UP OFFERS FOR UK BOOKMAKERSIn 1966 they had been crowned champions of Argentina for a 15th time, and understandably rivals Independiente were furious at their success.And in a desperate bid for revenge, a group of Independiente fans are said to have broken into Racing’s El Cilindro.Football stars’ weird phobiasTaking advantage of the fact that the night watchman was an Independiente fan, they broke in and buried seven black cats at the behest of alleged encouragement from a local witch.This curse appeared to yield instant success as Independiente beat Racing Club 4-0 in December 1967 to win the Primera Division league title.However, little did Racing know their plight had only just begun.In 1970, the club sacked manager Juan Jose Pizzuti, who had led them to victory over Celtic before going through four different coaches in one season.Five years later they suffered a colossal 10-0 defeat to Rosario Central before barely avoiding relegation by finishing second bottom of the league in 1976.By 1980, the impact of the curse seemed real enough, and new boss Juan Carlos “Toto” Lorenzo opted to tackle the curse head on by finding the cats and removing them.Racing fans dug up the ground and found six of the seven catsCredit: Andy Bush – The SunThey then replaced the skeletons with toads in a bid to counter the hexCredit: GettyDuring the search they had success by finding a number of cat skeletons beneath one of the goalposts. But they were left one short as only six of the seven were found.In a bid to reverse the hex, Lorenzo ordered six toads – said to be associated with cleansing and rebirth – to be buried in the spot the cats were.But things did not get better for The Academy, and in 1983 they suffered the most bitter of fallout’s as they were relegated from the top flight for the first time in their history.From an Independiente point of view, the cherry on top was that they got to deal the coupe de grace, with a 2-0 win over their rivals at the Libertadores simultaneously crowning them champions and relegating Racing.Racing were back in the top flight after two seasons, but their curse was far from over as the 1990s added to the pain of the decades prior.By 1998, enough was enough, and in February Racing called in the biggest guns they could in the entirety of Argentina, the Catholic Church.God is a Racing fan. The devil is notRacing Club fan bannerHuge crowds gathered outside the Santa Iglesia Cathedral in Avellaneda, with some estimates suggesting some 100,000 people followed the procession.Father Horatio Della Barca sprinkled holy water on both goalmouths, with Racing president Daniel Lalín saying: “This is not an exorcism but an act of faith. “The Racing fans deserve all the good times that they have not received for a long time.”A banner hung around the ground is also said to have read: “God is a Racing fan. “The devil is not.” All told, this act of faith was said to have cost over US$30,000, but it was rewarded with Racing losing their next game 2-0.READ MORE SPORT FEATURESAnd just one year later, Racing hit their lowest point as they were officially declared bankrupt on March 4 1999 after racking up multi-million dollar debts, with the court-appointed accountant issuing the statement: “Racing Club has ceased to exist.”However, Racing fans – who had continued to attend in high numbers throughout the years of regression – refused to stand for the news, fighting legal battles, protesting outside parliament and occupying the club’s headquarters to prevent administrator’s taking control.Some 30,000 are even said to have turned out for the club’s first game of the season and sang for ninety minutes non-stop, even though no teams appeared on the pitch due to it being cancelled.It was from these ashes that Racing fans had their prayers answered.In late 2000 the club hired Reinaldo “Mostaza” Merlo – a big believer in superstition – as their new boss, who insisted the seventh cat be found and convinced club bosses to excavate the pitch and dig up the concrete moat surrounding the pitch.Finally after 34 years of searching, the final cat skeleton was found behind the goal covered in concrete, a spot allegedly suggested by the former Independiente supporting night watchman.Racing vs Independiente head-to-head recordMatches played: 233Racing won: 70Independiente: 88Draws: 75Total titles: 85Racing titles: 40 – 18 Primera Division, 1 Copa LibertadoresIndependiente titles: 45 – 16 Primera Division, 7 Copa LibertadoresIt was summarily removed from El Cilindro, and low-and-behold in December 2001 Racing ended their 35-year drought by winning their first title since 1966 against all odds.Celebrating their victory, Racing fans held up a banner saying: “What ghosts? No ghosts. Merlo already said: Racing are Champions!”Racing did not have to wait anywhere near as long to get their hands on the title again, with victory in 2014 and then again in 2018/19.But whether it was all real or simply a stunning coincidence is up to the fans to decide.Former Racing player José Raúl “Toti” Iglesias claims an alleged quote of him speaking about a “haunted goal” where cats are buried is false.He told the Buenos Aires Herald: “There is no truth to that quote, nor do I remember it. Some things go around for years, but it’s not true, or at least I never saw it.”READ MORE SUN STORIESWhether or not football gods exist, Racing were unfortunate to have a long period of misfortune.Though many more fans of other clubs would be over the moon to have some of the success they tasted in the last 60 years.The club were on the brink of bankruptcy in 1999Credit: AP:Associated PressBut in 2000 they found the seventh cat skeletonCredit: AFPAnd they proceeded to win the league in the following seasonCredit: AFP More

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    Inside Riyad Mahrez and Taylor Ward’s relationship from £400,000 engagement ring to dream third wedding in Lake Como

    ANOTHER footballer’s wedding, ANOTHER lavish occasion.But for lovebirds Riyad Mahrez, 33, and Taylor Ward, 26, it’s the third time they have walked down the aisle together.Riyad Mahrez and Taylor Ward are football’s most loved-up coupleCredit: Instagram / @taylorwardxGorgeous Taylor has said her ‘I do’s’ to Mahrez for a third timeThe ex-Man City ace, now playing in Saudi Arabia, and his Cheshire-born missus are clearly a match made in heaven and cannot get enough of one another.This time they said their ‘I do’s’ in the wondrous setting of Lake Como, Italy at the exclusive Villa Balbiano, where the Hollywood movie House of Gucci was filmed.It’s another chapter in their relationship that began in 2020.Following a whirlwind romance, they secretly wed a year later.Read more football newsTheir love affair has continued to blossom as the years have passed.Unlucky in loveBefore they met one another, Mahrez and Taylor appeared unlucky in love.She was linked to footballers Mason Holgate and the Algerian’s former teammate Sergio Aguero, however happiness was short lived.Mahrez was married to British model Rita Johal, after they met on London’s Oxford Street, where he asked her out in 2012.Most read in FootballThey married in 2015, but it wasn’t to last – with the pair filing for divorce five years later.Pregnant Taylor Ward reveals she’s having a girl with footballer boyfriend Riyad Mahrez in sweet gender revealRita was in the headlines for ‘chatting intently’ to boxer Deontay Wilder in a Manchester nightclub, which reportedly left Mahrez devastated.The reason why they divorced was never disclosed.Finding each otherWard and Mahrez met in 2020 in the street in Manchester when she was visiting a Christmas market, and soon fell madly in love with another.They were soon engaged by 2021, after the winger whisked the beauty off to Mykonos for a stunning summer holiday.While on their break way, it is believed he dropped to one knee and presented Taylor with a diamond sparkler worth an estimated £400,000.In January, 2022 they walked down the isle in a secret traditional Islamic Nikah ceremony.It was merely the start for the pair who love devoting themselves to each other.Building a familyIn the summer of 2022, Taylor and Mahrez welcomed their first child together.Mahrez and Taylor began dating in 2020 after they met on the street in ManchesterSoon, Mahrez proposed with a £400k diamond engagement ringTaylor shows off her £400k engagement ring after romantic Mykonos proposalBy 2021, Taylor was expecting her first child with MahrezBaby Mila was born in the summer of 2022They announced their daughter Mila on Instagram – sharing a photo of her nestled in a carrier.A caption next to the adorable snap read: “One week of loving you. Mila Mahrez 01.07.22.”Previously, an excited Taylor showed off her extravagant baby shower on social media.The bash featured lavish decorations, including a huge balloon arch,  sprawling pink table and a bespoke three-tiered cake.That came after the pair revealed the gender of their new-born, once again on Instagram, in a sweet reveal video.A second ceremonyBlissfully happy, Mahrez and Taylor exchanged their nuptials for a second time in September, 2023.This time they upped the ante, marrying in front of their closest friends and family at the five-star The Londoner hotel found in the heart of the West End.She looked incredible in a beautiful white dress.While Mahrez was dapper in a black tuxedo.Mahrez and Taylor walked down the aisle for a second time at the five-star The Londoner hotelCredit: Instagram / @taylorwardxBaby Mila was present for the occasion, as was Mahrez’s daughters Inaya and AylaCredit: Instagram / @taylorwardxTaylor looked beautiful in a white dress, while dapper Mahrez opted for a black tuxCredit: Instagram / @betiolacekaaread more sport featuresMahrez and Taylor were also joined by his two daughters, Inaya and Ayla, from his previous marriage and their baby, Mila.The football world united in their love for the couple, after pictures of the ceremony were shared online.Taylor’s furniture designer and Real Housewives of Cheshire star mum, Dawn, declared: “The most amazing day you all look incredible. Me and Dad are super proud, love you all so much.”Former Newcastle star Allan Saint-Maximin commented: “Very beautiful, it’s strong ♥️.”While ex-Man City Ilkay Gundogan’s partner Sara added: “Omg congratulations 🤍🫠😭😍 love it.”Settling in SaudiIf ever there was a test on a relationship, it would be moving to foreign shores.When Mahrez was offered an incredible opportunity – a £45million-per-year contract with Al-Ahli – it was too good to turn down.But, that could have put a strain on the couple’s marriage.In the Married to the Game docuseries put together by Amazon Prime, Mahrez and Taylor offered fans a glimpse into their lives.One emotional scene saw Taylor confessing her struggles to adapt to a new way of living.She admitted: “I feel like it is so hard, there are times I can’t, I just don’t like it.”Mahrez was offered a princely sum to join the Saudi Pro LeagueCredit: AFPTaylor has adapted to her surroundings in the name of love for her partnerAlthough Taylor has admitted it’s been tough at times in the Middle EastTaylor also spoke about an experience she had at a hotel pool.She said on camera: “I won’t lie, I had a freak out yesterday. I rang the hotel to ask ‘I’m coming with my baby, what do people wear around the pool’, I know it is a lot more conservative there and you have to dress a certain way.‘”I said ‘I just want to check when I come with a baby what is the best thing to wear, do I need to wear something covered if I am going in the water?'”They were like ‘oh no sorry, it’s just a man’s pool, it is just a gents pool'”.Third time’s a charmNeedless to say, they have now adapted perfectly to life in the Middle East.Their undying love prompted the pair to wed for a THIRD time in the romantic setting of Lake Como.They did this at the luxury Villa Balbiano, famously featured in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci starring Adam Driver, Lady Gaga and Jared Leto.The luxurious property boasts an outdoor swimming pool, a private pier and a boathouse.They had an outdoor ceremony, followed by a party with guests. Taylor looked stunning in a long sleeve white gown.Mahrez and Taylor tied the knot again at the splendid Villa Balbiano in Lake ComoLeona Lewis performed at Taylor and Mahrez’s third weddingThe stunning occasion was shared by Taylor’s mum Dawn WardHer footballer dad Ashley walked her down the aisle to Callum Scott’s You Are The Reason surrounded by hundreds of white roses.READ MORE SUN STORIESSinger Leona Lewis, who shot to fame on The X Factor in 2006, performed after the wedding.She famously sang ‘Bleeding Love’. And that’s exactly what Mahrez and Taylor do for each other. More

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    Meet Switzerland’s Wags, from a Kosovan pop star to ex-Prem star’s wife ahead of quarter-final clash with England

    ON Saturday afternoon, England’s Euro 2024 campaign resumes with renewed optimism.The display against Slovakia might not have been the best, but Jude Bellingham’s injury time overhead kick and Harry Kane’s extra-time winner could just kick-start our tournament.Leonita Xhaka is one of the Swiss Wags who will be cheering her nation onGorgeous Leonita lives a charmed life with ex-Arsenal star Granit XhakaThe Xhakas enjoy glam holidays, including hiring private yachtsThroughout the championships, the Three Lions stars have been supported by their Wags.Stood in unison in the stands and following them around Germany in private jets, they present a formidable force of girl power.But what about their Swiss counterparts?Let SunSport introduce you to Switzerland’s gorgeous partners.read more football newsLeonita XhakaBrunette stunner Leonita boasts a significant presence on social media.She has over 205,000 followers on Instagram, although she keeps her account private.The Albanian stunner began dating ex-Arsenal star Granit Xhaka in 2015, and they soon married two years later.During her time on our shores, Leonita reportedly fell in love with Camden Town.Most read in Euro 2024But Granit had to deny she had any sway in where he ended up playing after leaving the Gunners.Dhurata AhmetajThe Kosovan pop star is the rumoured girlfriend of ex-Liverpool ace Xherdan Shaqiri.England’s Wags unite in support of Annie KilnerThe pair’s romance reportedly began in 2020, when she would fly to the UK to spend time with him.They were soon seen lapping up a summer holiday on a boat trip in Formentera.Dhurata lives an envious lifestyle, which she shares with her 550,000 plus followers on Instagram – from trips to Lake Como to shopping sprees at Cartier.Dhurata Ahmetag is a Kosovan pop star who lives an envious lifestyleCredit: Instagram dhurataahmetajIn 2020, Dhurata began dating ex-Liverpool star Xherdan ShaqiriCredit: Instagram dhurataahmetajDhurata enjoys an envious lifestyle – from trips to Lake Como to shopping sprees in CartierCredit: Instagram dhurataahmetajKiki FreulerKristina, who goes by the nickname Kiki, married ex-Nottingham Forest ace Remo Freuler in 2019.The pair have since relocated to Italy, where the midfielder plays for an impressive Bologna side.Kiki has been sharing her experiences in Germany as she’s followed the Swiss national side.The pair share a son together called Romeo.Kiki Freuler was once on our shores when her beau played for Nottingham ForestCredit: Instagram @kikifreulerBrunette beauty Kiki has since relocated to Bologna, where her husband playsCredit: Instagram @kikifreulerRemo and Kiki have been married since 2019Credit: Instagram @kikifreulerAlexandra MungerAnother who is used to life on England’s shores is Alexandra.She is based in the North-East, where she lives with Newcastle United’s Fabian Schar.They began dating in 2019, when the defender turned out for Swiss giants FC Basel.But they were forced to live apart until she finished her law degree in Zurich.The pair are yet to have children.Alexandra Munger is also used to life on our shoresCredit: Instagram @ alemngerStunning Alexandra studied law at university in ZurichCredit: Instagram @ alemngerAlexandra is the missus of Newcastle United star Fabian ScharCredit: Instagram @ alemngerread more sport featuresSwitzerland Euro 2024 guideIN RECENT years, the Swiss national team have been as reliable as one of their watches.They’ll always be at tournaments and always go out in the last 16 – with the exception of Euro 2020 when they stunned France to win on penalties and reach the quarter-finals.MANAGER: Murat YakinFormer Basel coach who had a brush with Jose Mourinho in 2013, beating Chelsea in the Champions League.STAR MAN: Granit XhakaThe Swiss captain makes everything tick and is coming off the best season of his career, winning the double at Bayer Leverkusen.How Switzerland attackSwitzerland are comfortable playing out from the back and can launch quick attacking moves with a pass from defence.They will then quickly get the ball wide or to the strikers’ feet before pushing multiple players forward to occupy space.How Switzerland defendSwitzerland are versatile in the way they defend and comfortable hanging back in a low block.But at times they will completely change their approach to press high and catch the opposition off-guard.Read the full Switzerland Euro 2024 guide here, including predicted line-ups, odds and WagsMelanie AkanjiMelanie was recently seen on the Etihad pitch celebrating her husband’s famous Premier League win.She is the other half of Man City’s ball-playing defender, Manuel Akanji.The pair have been a couple since 2016, and she showed her devotion by moving to Dortmund to be with him.They got hitched in 2019.Manuel Akanji and Melanie Akanji got together in 2016 and were married by 2019Credit: GettyMelanie regularly joins her beau on the pitch to help him celebrate his achievementsCredit: RexMeet England’s Euro 2024 WagsEngland Wags range from childhood sweethearts to recently blossoming love stories.Katie Goodland (Harry Kane’s wife)The fitness instructor has been married to the England captain since 2019 and joined him in Germany with their four children after he joined Bayern Munich.Laura Celia Valk (Jude Bellingham’s girlfriend)The stunning Dutch model, 25, has more than half a million Instagram followers and is said to be absolutely smitten with the Real Madrid star.Rebecca Cooke (Phil Foden’s girlfriend)Foden’s childhood sweetheart and the mother of his two kids tends to keep out of the spotlight, but is a regular at England games.Dani Dyer (Jarrod Bowen’s girlfriend)England’s most famous Wag, former Love Island winner and daughter of Eastenders’ Danny Dyer.Iris Law (Trent Alexander-Arnold’s girlfriend)Dani Dyer isn’t the only actor’s daughter dating an England star. Iris’ dad is Hollywood legend Jude Law.Megan Davison (Jordan Pickford’s wife)Megan has been with Pickford since he was 14 years old. The couple married in 2022 and have one son.Olivia Naylor (John Stones’ girlfriend)The 33-year-old former beautician has stepped back from her role after giving birth to a baby son.Read more about the Wags supporting England at Euro 2024 hereAlexandra CrumKeeping a relatively low profile is the beautiful Alexandra.Her partner is Nico Elvedi, who plays at the back for German side Borussia Mönchengladbach.READ MORE SUN STORIESAlthough he could have been playing his football for Wolves, if a move went through.According to reports, Alexandra was keen on a move to the Midlands.Nico Elvedi’s girlfriend Alexandra Crum prefers to keep a low-profileCredit: Instagram @nicoelvedi30However, Alexandra reportedly wanted Elvedi to move to the Premier League More

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    Meet Spain wonderkid Lamine Yamal, who has taken Euro 2024 by storm and is Barcelona’s youngest player this century

    ANOTHER star turn at the Euros, ANOTHER coming of age performance.Spain’s wonderkid Lamine Yamal, 16, has turned heads not just because of his tender years, but his outstanding ability.Lamine Yamal has been a sensation for Spain at the EurosCredit: ReutersAged just 16, Yamal has made history and is tipped to be the next world record transferCredit: GettyAlongside Arsenal target Nico Williams, he has provided his country’s attacking threat from the wings – as they have slowly edged their way towards being the people’s favourites to lift the Euro 2024 crown.And he’s done this all alongside his school work.Yamal revealed: “I’ve brought my homework with me because I’m finishing high school. I have classes on the web and I’m doing well, I hope the teacher doesn’t fail me.”It’s no wonder that PSG are considering smashing the previous world transfer record they set when they paid £199million for Neymar on the teenage sensation.Read more football newsAt just 15, Yamal made his debut for Barcelona in LaLiga – coming off the bench for a lively cameo.In doing so, he became the Catalan giants’ youngest ever player this century.And Yamal keeps on breaking the standards.He is Spain’s youngest ever goalscorer, and the youngest player to play at the Euros in the 64-year history of the competition.Most read in Euro 2024His story begins as a Barcelona native.Growing upBorn to a Moroccan father and Guinean mother, Yamal grew up in the suburb of Mataro.He is fiercely proud of his roots – donning the flags of both of those countries on his Adidas F50 boots, the same worn by his idol Lionel Messi, who he has been compared to, and told GQ that the same people who call him the ‘next Messi’ are also likely to criticise him.His mum and dad split when he was young, so he divided his time between two homes – using a train pass to get around.Meet Spain’s stunning WagsHowever, a young Yamal was always drawn to his mother’s cooking – and his favourite dish, rice with peanut sauce.A love of his grandma’s pastries is also another guilty pleasure.Getting scoutedYamal was scouted by La Masia talent spotters at the age of just five.Such was his talent early on, he would play for three age groups as his development was carefully managed.The winger progressed through the ranks – standing out for the U16 side aged just 13.He tore through the youth league with ease, with the club very aware of the unique talent they had on their hands.In 2022, he skipped an entire age group to play for the U19 side, where he continued to blossom.Teen sensation Yamal appeared as a cover star in the Spanish GQWhen Yamal was jut 15, he was already training with Barcelona’s first teamCredit: GettyGrowing up, Yamal idolised Lionel Messi and has been compared to the ArgentineCredit: Getty”He is always asking questions, he has a very good predisposition to evolve. You have to treat him calmly and not rush,” his former youth coach Oscar Lopez revealed.By that point, ex-Barça boss Xavi deemed the prodigy good enough to train with the first team squad – integrating the generational talent into his sessions.It was a matter of time when the LaLiga giants couldn’t hold Yamal back anymore and had to unleash him into the world.Making his debutOn the 29 April, 2023, fans were given their first glimpse of Yamal as he made his debut for the club against Real Betis.Aged just 15 years, 9 months, and 16 days he ran onto the pitch in the 83rd minute to replace another wonderkid, Gavi with the score at 4-0.The wide forward became the youngest player to appear for Barcelona’s first team since the 15-year-old Armando Sagi in 1922, over a century before.And he soon made an impact. In those limited minutes on the pitch, Yamal registered a shot at Betis’ goal.Ex-Barcelona coach Xavi gave Yamal his LaLiga debut last yearCredit: ReutersYamal made an instant impact from the bench during his brief cameoCredit: AFPread more sport featuresHe also would have had an assist, if not for better finishing from a teammate.At the final whistle, his former coach’s words echoed what the fans saw.”I told him to try things and he did,” Xavi said. “At 15 years old, just imagine it… He is special and he could have even scored tonight, but [Betis goalkeeper Rui Silva] saved.”He played with confidence and he showed what he is about. He has no fear and bags of talent. Some of his passes in the final third were really good.”The justified hype began.He just keeps shattering recordsJust a few months after setting the world alight, Spain made Yamal a full international.He earned his first cap against Georgia in a 7-1 win back in September, finding the net in the rout.Again, he made history. He is now La Roja’s youngest ever player and goalscorer at just 16 years and 57 days old.Better still, he shattered Gareth Bale’s long-standing Euro qualifier record, who scored at the age of 17 years and 83 days old.Spain Euro 2024 guideSPAIN’S team may not be a patch on the one that dominated world football 15 years ago – which had superstars coming out of its ears.But they still topped a qualifying group consisting of Scotland and Erling Haaland’s Norway by winning nine out of ten games.MANAGER: Luis de la FuenteSurprise choice as coach but won the Under-21 Euros in 2019 and an Olympic silver medal a year later.KEY MAN: RodriRodri is arguably the greatest holding midfielder the Premier League has ever seen. But will he have enough left in the tank after complaints of tiredness at Man City?How Spain attackSpain will be a different side to that which we have seen in recent years, with the 4-3-3 replaced by a more structured 4-2-3-1 formation.The full-backs, attacking midfielders and wingers are all ready to push forward while Rodri and Fabian Ruiz sit deep in the quarterback role.How Spain defendSpain’s two deep midfielders allow the rest of the team to push forward and press high up the pitch.Their focus will be on either dispossessing the opposition defence or forcing opponents to play long by cutting off the short pass option.Read the full Spain Euro 2024 guide here, including predicted line-ups, odds and WagsYamal terrorised the Italian defence in the group stages at the EurosCredit: EPASpain are one of the favourites because of Yamal’s blistering speed and abilityCredit: APAlongside Nico Williams, La Roja have become a team to be feared with Yamal in attackCredit: ReutersIt was no surprise that a month after his exploits, Barcelona tied Yamal up to a new that should keep him to the club until 2026.READ MORE SUN STORIESAnyone who wants to sign him will have to cough up his release clause – which stands at a staggering £1billion.PSG, you have been warned. 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