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A simmering conflict between Spain’s women’s national team players, head coach Jorge Vilda and the Spanish Football Federation has definitively come to a head.
Fifteen players contacted the federation (RFEF) to announce they would not be interested in playing for the national team as long as Vilda stayed on as head coach, according to a report from Spanish radio show El Larguero on Thursday.
The RFEF released a statement in response, saying it “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 has ‘significantly’ affected their ’emotional state’ and their ‘health’ and that, ‘as long as it is not reversed,’ they will resign from the Spanish national team.”
Multiple Spanish reports said the list of players known to have emailed the RFEF includes Laia Alexandri, Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmatí, Mariona Caldentey, Lola Gallardo, Lucia García, Patri Guijarro, Nerea Izaguirre, Mapi León, Leila Ouahabi, Sandra Paños, Andrea Pereira, Claudia Pina, Amaiur Sarriegui, and Ainhoa Vicente.
Twelve of those players (including six starters) were part of Spain’s 2-1 quarterfinal defeat to England at Euro 2022.
Spain’s players had, in recent weeks, reportedly taken their issues to RFEF president Luis Rubiales and confronted Vilda directly. The longtime national team coach reportedly insisted he remain in charge.
RFEF response to players
The Spanish federation’s statement made it clear it is not prepared to consider the group’s position.
“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,” read the statement. “The Federation will not admit any type of pressure from any player when adopting sports measures. These types of maneuvers are far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport and are harmful.”
The RFEF went on to say any refusal of a call-up can be punished with a ban of between two and five years and said it will not call any player who “does not want to wear the Spain shirt.” The statement said the players that demanded Vilda’s ousting will only be recalled “if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”
The federation also called the player’s demand “an unprecedented situation in the history of football, both male and female, in Spain and worldwide,” a claim that seems contrary to the number of player mutinies on national teams over the history of national teams playing soccer against each other. Spain shares a border with France, whose men’s team refused to train during the 2010 World Cup as part of a revolt against coach Raymond Domenech.
Spain’s federation has long had issues on the women’s side of its program. Vilda’s predecessor, Ignacio Quereda, was the senior team’s head coach for a whopping 27 years from 1988 to 2015. In 2021, allegations emerged that his time in charge had included extensive abuse, homophobia, and a general culture of fear.
The current situation is playing out with two high-profile friendlies coming up in the October FIFA international window. Spain is due to host Sweden on Oct. 7, and then the U.S. women’s national team on Oct. 11 in Pamplona.