Spain announced its squad on Monday for the women’s national team’s first two matches since the team’s World Cup victory – and a post-match kiss that sent women’s football into turmoil.
However, many of the players who have opted for Spain have made it clear in recent weeks that they do not want to do so unless there are changes in the football federation’s management. But only eight of the World Cup winners were left out of the squad on Monday, including three who are injured, one who has retired – and Jennifer Hermoso, the star player who was forcibly kissed by the man who was Spain’s best football manager at the time.
“We’re with Jenni. We believe this is the best way to protect her,” the new coach, Montse Tomé, said at a Royal Spanish Football Federation press conference, when asked why Ms Hermoso had not been chosen to play in the UEFA Nations League, which is the qualifying competition for European teams at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Earlier this month, Ms. Hermoso filed a criminal complaint of sexual assault against former soccer chief Luis Rubiales after he kissed her during the World Cup medal ceremony in Sydney, Australia.
Ms Tomé’s decision to exclude Ms Hermoso comes amid a standoff between Spain’s star players and the national football federation.
In August, after the World Cup victory, the team, including the players who were on Ms Tomé’s roster on Monday, demanded management changes and threatened not to play if changes were not made.
On Friday, Ms Hermoso and 20 of the 23 winning team members signed a joint statement with other Spanish players saying “it is time to fight” and renewing their demands for a restructuring of “the leadership positions of the Royal Spanish Football Federation”. confirmed. guarantee a “safe place where women are respected.” But they did not explicitly threaten not to play.
On Monday evening, with their demands not yet met, it was not clear whether all players on Ms Tomé’s roster would agree to play or whether they would boycott the games against Sweden and Switzerland starting Friday in support of Ms Tomé. Hermoso.
If they decide not to play, they could face consequences, including fines or temporary bans, according to the National Sports Council.
“I trust that they are professional world champions and that they love their profession,” Ms Tomé said, adding that she had spoken to the players in recent days.
In a statement posted on social media On Monday evening, the women’s players’ union, Futpro, said the joint statement issued by players on Friday made clear: “without room for misinterpretation, our company does not wish to be called out, for reasons that are justified.”
“We regret that our federation is putting us in a situation we never wanted,” Monday’s statement said.
Minutes later, AFE, Spain’s main players’ union, also issued a statement, expressing its “dismay at the lack of dialogue by the Royal Spanish Football Federation regarding the majority position of the players called up on the basis of arguments that must be respected.” .”
Ivana Andrés, one of the captains of the World Cup team, is currently struggling with a sports injury. She is one of the champions not on Ms. Tomé’s roster. In a television interview on Monday evening, Ms Andrés said: “The most important thing is that we want to play.”
But “we want them to treat us with respect,” she added, referring to the federation.
Then on Monday evening, the president of Spain’s state sports council, Víctor Francos, weighed in on a late-night radio program that “if the players don’t show up, the government will have to apply the law,” referring to the sanctions the players could face . Mr Francos added: “Tomorrow at 8.30am I will call some of the players and speak to them.”
Some Spaniards also expressed their dissatisfaction with the selection, including a well-known politician. “It’s not a call. It is a threat,” said Gabriel Rufián, an MP from a pro-Catalan independence party.
A Swiss player, Ana-Maria Crnogorčević, who currently plays for Spanish team Atlético de Madrid, also shared her disbelief on social media. “This is insane,” she said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Both the players and the federation have a lot to lose if Ms Tomé fails to get a team together in time for Friday’s match in Sweden.
Sports commentator Guillem Balagué explained that Spain will jeopardize its Olympic ticket if the players boycott the match against Sweden. Only “the two Nations League finalists, together with the French team, will be in Paris in 2024,” Balagué said.
Over the past month, the federation has taken some steps to address the concerns of its star players. They urged Mr. Rubiales to resign, which he did. He appeared in court on Friday in connection with the sexual abuse allegations filed by Ms Hermoso. A restraining order was subsequently issued against him, prohibiting contact with Ms. Hermoso. Jorge Vilda, the coach of the national team, was fired earlier this month. He was accused last year of controlling and sexist behavior by team members.
The association said in a statement on Monday morning that it guarantees a “safe environment for the players” and is committed to changes within the organization. But it did not specify details about the changes it plans to implement or a time frame.
Although Ms Tomé replaced Mr Vilda and became the first woman to hold the top job in Spain, her appointment is not without controversy. Ms Tomé was criticized when she took part in a standing ovation for Mr Rubiales on August 25, after a defiant speech in which he accused Ms Hermoso of initiating the kiss and railed against “false feminism”.
The players’ statement on Friday called for “zero tolerance” towards members of the federation who have “instigated, concealed or applauded attitudes towards the dignity of women.”
“I shouldn’t have done it,” Ms. Tomé said on Monday about her participation.