Spain revealed its roster 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 threw women’s football into turmoil.
Many players chosen to play for Spain have, however, made it clear in recent weeks that they will not be willing to do so unless changes are made to the leadership of the football federation. But only eight of the World Cup winners were left out of Monday’s list, including three injured, one who retired – and Jennifer Hermoso, the star player who was forcibly kissed by the man who was then the highest executive in Spanish football.
“We are with Jenni. We think this is the best way to protect her,” new coach Montse Tomé told a Royal Spanish Football Federation press conference when asked why Ms. Hermoso had not not been chosen to play in the UEFA Nations League, which is the qualification of European teams for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Earlier this month, Ms Hermoso filed a criminal complaint of sexual assault against former soccer chief Luis Rubiales after he kissed her at the World Cup medal ceremony in Sydney, Australia.
Ms. Tomé’s decision to exclude Ms. Hermoso comes amid a high-stakes showdown between Spain’s star players and the national soccer federation.
In August, after its World Cup victory, the team, including players who were on Ms. Tomé’s list on Monday, demanded changes in management and threatened not to play unless changes were made. were not brought.
On Friday, Ms Hermoso and 20 of the 23 members of the winning team signed a joint statement with other Spanish players saying “it is time to fight” and reestablish their demands for a restructuring of “leadership positions in the Royal Spanish Football Federation” to ensure a “safe place where women are respected”. But they didn’t explicitly threaten not to play.
As of Monday evening, their demands having not yet been met, it was not clear whether all the players on Ms. Tomé’s list would agree to play or whether they would boycott the matches against Sweden and Switzerland which begin on Friday, in support for Ms. Hermoso.
If they decide not to play, they could face consequences, including fines or temporary bans, according to the National Sports Council.
“I am convinced that they are professional world champions and that they love their job,” Ms. Tomé said, adding that she had spoken with the players in recent days.
In a statement posted on social media On Monday evening, the players’ union, Futpro, said the players’ joint statement released Friday clearly stated: “without leaving room for misinterpretations, our company wishes not to be called, for justified reasons.”
“We regret that our federation has put us in a situation that we would never have wanted,” said Monday’s press release.
A few minutes later, the AFE, the main Spanish players’ union, issued a statementdeclaring himself “surprised at the lack of dialogue from the Royal Spanish Football Federation regarding the majority position of the players called up, based on arguments that should be respected”.
Ivana Andrés, one of the captains of the World Cup team, is currently suffering from a sports injury. She is one of the champions who does not appear on Ms. Tomé’s list. In a television interview 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 the president of Spain’s National Sports Council, Víctor Francos, intervened, saying Monday night on a late-night radio show that “if the players don’t show up, the government must enforce the law.” , in reference to the penalties players could face. Mr. Francos added: “Tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. I will call some players and talk to them. »
Some Spaniards have also expressed dismay at the list, including a well-known politician. “This is not a summons. It’s a threat,” said Gabriel Rufián, a member of parliament for a Catalan independence party.
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.
The players and the federation have a lot to lose if Ms Tomé fails to assemble a team in time for Friday’s match in Sweden.
Sports commentator Guillem Balagué explained that Spain would jeopardize its Olympic ticket if the players boycotted the match against Sweden. Only “the two finalists of the League of Nations will be, with the French team, in Paris 2024”, specified Mr. Balagué.
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 assault allegations filed by Ms Hermoso. A restraining order was subsequently issued against him, banning him from any 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.
On Monday morning, the federation said in a statement that it guaranteed a “safe environment for players” and was committed to making changes within the organization. But he did not specify the details of the changes he intends to make or the timetable.
Although Ms Tomé replaced Mr Vilda, becoming the first woman to hold Spain’s top job, her appointment is not without controversy. Ms. Tomé was criticized when she participated in a standing ovation for Mr. Rubiales on August 25, following a defiant speech in which he accused Ms. Hermoso of initiating the kiss and denounced “fake feminism” .
The press release published Friday by the players calls for “zero tolerance” towards members of the federation who have “held, incited, hidden or applauded attitudes against the dignity of women”.
“I shouldn’t have done it,” Ms. Tomé said of her participation on Monday.