SPAIN: The Spanish Football Federation announced on Friday that the players who won the World Cup for Spain are still declining to participate in the women’s national team, just hours before the new coach, Montse Tomé, was scheduled to reveal her inaugural squad.
Tomé will now have to choose whether to select a different lineup for the forthcoming Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26 or to continue calling up the striking players.
The Spanish women’s football team had limited opportunities to commemorate their most significant achievement in football because the former president of the federation, Luis Rubiales, sparked controversy by kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the awards ceremony in Sydney.
Following the president’s refusal to step down after the kiss incident, the 23 players took a stand by declaring they would not represent their nation until the football federation underwent substantial reforms and saw new leadership.
Since then, the federation has experienced significant turmoil. Initially, Rubiales was suspended by FIFA, and his interim replacement dismissed the unpopular women’s national team coach, Jorge Vilda. Eventually, Rubiales himself resigned due to immense pressure.
While many anticipated the players’ return following these developments, it seems they are seeking further changes, although they haven’t disclosed their specific demands publicly.
Last month, the players conveyed through their Futrpo union that they would not consider returning to represent Spain “if the present leadership continues” and demanded “real structural changes that help the national team continue to grow.”
Last year, 15 players rebelled, seeking more “professional” coaching under Vilda. However, the federation, under Rubiales’ leadership, firmly supported Vilda, resulting in only three of those players eventually relenting and being included in the World Cup squad.
Nevertheless, the player uprising resulted in subtle but notable changes. The team saw its staff expand to over 60 members for the trip to Australia and New Zealand, utilise chartered flights for travel, and receive financial assistance to facilitate their families’ presence. Players with children were afforded dedicated time to spend with them.
Since Rubiales, Vilda’s biggest backer, is no longer in the picture, the federation has aligned more closely with the players during this second rebellion. In Vilda’s place, the federation appointed Tomé, who formerly served as his assistant, as the inaugural female coach of Spain’s women’s team.
On Wednesday, Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas, a two-time Ballon d’Or winner, said that the players’ want sweeping reform.
“We are asking for changes so no woman, inside or outside of soccer, should ever have to experience again situations of disparagement, disrespect, or abuse. We need consensus, courage, and leadership from the institutions, please. This is why we will not stop here,” said Alexia.
On Friday, Rubiales was testifying before a Spanish judge who is investigating allegations made by state prosecutors that he engaged in sexual misconduct by kissing Hermoso. Rubiales contends that the kiss was consensual, while Hermoso has consistently refuted that claim.