A dispute has deepened within La Roja’s ranks, with the RFEF issuing a stern statement.
Women’s football in Spain has been rocked by a remarkable sequence of events that has resulted in a group of players declaring themselves unavailable for selection. Having completed World Cup 2023 qualifying with two wins earlier this month, the national team finds itself at a crossroads heading into the final internationals of the year.
A number of star performers have been at the forefront of an internal campaign to effect change in the team and it has since become very public, provoking a strong response from the Spanish football federation (RFEF).
So what exactly is the situation? GOAL brings you everything you need to know.
Why have Spain women’s players revolted?
Jorge Vilda and his coaching staff are reportedly the reason for the player revolt.
Cadena Ser reports that the emails of resignation that have been sent by the players refer to recent events within the Spanish team that have “significantly” impacted on the players’ “emotional state” and health.
A number of senior figures in the group had previously made it known that they feel a fresh start was required for the team following Euro 2022, where Spain were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by eventual winners England.
However, Vilda, who has the backing of RFEF president Luis Rubiales, remains defiant and is determined to lead the team to the 2023 World Cup. “I am stronger and more eager than ever,” said Vilda. “I want to continue creating a competitive team.”
Team captains Irene Paredes, Jennifer Hermoso and Patri Guijarro subsequently insisted that they had not asked for Vilda’s dismissal, but had merely “transmitted the feelings of the players”, adding that there had been “false leaks”.
“We believe that there are internal aspects that they can change. We would have liked it to have stayed inside but there are things that have been leaked that are not true. There are times when things have to be said, even if it is not pleasant, for them to change,” explained Paredes.
Hermoso added: “We are defending our team. We transmit a message of general discomfort, each one is consistent in what she does. But when the player enters the field of play, nothing else is thought of.”
Which players have withdrawn?
The 15 players, plus Alexia Putellas who is currently injured, have collectively tweeted a statement confirming they do not wish to be picked for the national team.
It reads: “We requested in our communication sent to the RFEF not to be summoned until situations that affect our emotional and personal state, our performance and, consequently, the results of the Selection and that could lead to undesirable injuries are reversed.”
What has the Spanish football association said?
The RFEF responded to the player revolt with a statement, issued on Thursday evening, which rejected the idea of players pressuring the association into making changes to the coaching team, claiming that the behaviour was “far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport”.
The association states that it “will only have committed footballers”, suggesting that youth team players will be fielded if necessary. Furthermore, the RFEF has made clear that those who have taken the action of emailing the association on this occasion will only be considered for selection again if they apologise.
The full RFEF statement can be read in full here:
“The Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol communicates that, throughout today, it has received 15 emails from 15 players of the women’s senior football team, coincidentally all with the same wording, in which they state that the current situation generated affects ‘significantly’ their ’emotional state’ and their ‘health’ and that, ‘as long as it is not reversed’, they resign from the Spanish national team.
“The RFEF is not going to allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers. The Federation will not admit any type of pressure from any player when adopting sports measures. These types of manoeuvres are far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport and are harmful.
“In accordance with current Spanish legislation, not attending a national team call is classified as a very serious infraction and can carry sanctions of between two and five years of disqualification. The RFEF, contrary to the way these players act, wants to make it clear that it will not take them to this extreme or pressure them. Directly, it will not summon the soccer players who do not want to wear the Spain shirt. The Federation will only have committed footballers even if they have to play with youth.
“This fact has gone from being a sporting issue to a dignity issue. The selection is non-negotiable. It is an unprecedented situation in the history of football, both male and female, in Spain and worldwide.
“The national team needs players committed to the project, defending our colours and proud to wear the Spain shirt. The players who have submitted their resignation will only return to the discipline of the national team in the future if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”
What next for Spain and the RFEF?
It is difficult to know how the situation will develop, given how public and protracted the issue has become.
Spain’s next game is next month, against Sweden in Cordoba on October 7. They they welcome the U.S. women’s national team to Pamplona four days later, on October 11.