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Spain women’s soccer players resign en masse amid fight with federation, ‘dictatorial’ coach

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Fifteen of Spain’s best female players have refused to play for the Spanish national team until conditions improve, and in emails on Thursday claimed that the situation around the team had “significantly” affected their “emotional state” and “health”. Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and the players said in partly conflicting statements on Thursday and Friday.

The temporary resignations come a few weeks after several Spanish stars. reportedly called on head coach Jorge Vilda to step down and asked RFEF President Luis Rubiales to fire Vilda. Both men reportedly refused.

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On Friday, the players clarified in their statement that they didn’t “give up” on the national team; however, they stated that they would not play for it until the situation “turned around”. In the statement, they cited the environment as damaging to their “emotional and personal state”, harming the team’s performance and results, and resulting in “undesirable injuries”.

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This is reported by the Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo. that players perceive the environment as “dictatorial”. Vilda, for example, allegedly checked their bags after they went shopping and demanded to know who they were going to have coffee with. “All movements were under strict surveillance,” the Spanish publication reported.

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The players, in a statement Friday, said they “never asked for a manager to be fired.” But they said, “We want a strong commitment to a professional project.”

However, the RFEF has already said that the players want Vilda to leave; and in a press release Thursday, the federation said it would stand its ground. It stated that it would “not allow players to question the succession” of Vilda and his staff and would not go to “any pressure”.

He called the resignation of the players “a very serious violation”, which could lead to their disqualification from participating in the selection to the national team for 2-5 years.

Players said in a statement Friday that RFEF’s incomplete and biased portrayal of “private messages” on Thursday was “deplorable.” Their statement said Thursday’s RFEF release was a public relations ploy that undermined serious discussions around how players can achieve “maximum professional and personal success.”

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Spain squad during the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 quarter-final match between England and Spain at the stadium
Spain lost to England in the quarter-finals of Women’s Euro 2022. (Photo by José Hernandez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Among players who are reported to have retired are a few key members of the FC Barcelona squad that went undefeated in Spain’s Primera División Femenina last season, as well as other key players from the Spain squad that qualified for Euro 2022 as favourites.

One month after Redfamously losing to England in the Euro quarter-finals, the players reportedly met and decided, with the support of most but not all of them, to push for a change – a change that reportedly included Wilde leaving.

Vilda came to work in 2015 after rebellion by individual players against ousted former coach Ignacio Quereda, who cultivated an abusive culture of fear and intimidationbut the RFEF was retained until the players had their say.

Initial reports of the uprising against Vilda last month suggested that the players’ reasoning was rooted in Vilda’s football tactics, decisions and results. However, in Thursday’s emails and Friday’s statement, the players also made it clear that the environment under Wylda has affected their health. They are reportedly dissatisfied with his training methods and the staff’s attitude towards injuries.

The RFEF acknowledged none of this in its statement on Thursday. Instead, he reacted aggressively and stated that “players who have submitted a resignation letter will only return to the national team in the future if they admit their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”

These words offended the players. “We will not tolerate the infantile tone in which the RFEF ends its statement,” they wrote on Friday.

The players, on the contrary, claimed that they “retain and will continue to maintain an unconditional commitment to the Spanish national team.” They just want conditions around the team to improve.

They certainly don’t want to “punish” their careers, their financial situation, or the growth of women’s football by refusing to play for the team, their statement says. Especially not ahead of two games next month against Sweden and the USA, and the 2023 Women’s World Cup is less than a year away.

But they feel they must.

“We regret,” they wrote, “that in the context of women’s sports we have to go to this extreme, as unfortunately historically happened with other teams and other sports around the world, in order to promote a powerful and ambitious professional project for the current and future generations.”


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