The question now: with a World Cup trophy and an attentive world, will there be a change?
Since Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales grabbed and kissed midfielder Jenni Hermoso, the country’s soccer establishment largely ignored calls for change until Monday, when the federation (RFEF) issued a press release and called on Rubiales to resign “immediately”.
Rubiales refused to withdrawdelivering a defiant speech in which he claimed the kiss was “consensual” and blamed “fake feminism” for his predicament.
Danae Boronat, a journalist and author of a Spanish-language book on women’s football, said the kiss was just the tip of the iceberg and Rubiales’ reaction intensified calls for her ousting.
“If Rubiales had honestly apologized to Hermoso and the rest of the players the next day and said he would listen to the players’ requests and try to understand their requests in all areas,” Boronat said, “… if that had been the case message, the conflict would have been over.The players value the gestures of the federation.
All 23 Members of the World Cup-winning squad said they would not play for the national team until management of the federation remains the same. If they were whole, Spain would be among the favorites at next year’s Summer Olympics in Paris. In a statement co-signed by dozens of players, they said they “expect a strong response from public authorities so that these actions do not go unpunished” and called “for real structural changes that will help the national team to continue to grow”. .
“It saddens us,” the players wrote, “that such an unacceptable incident tarnishes the greatest sporting achievement in Spanish women’s football.”
It’s not the first time that Spanish players have faced the RFEF.
In 2015, the players demanded the resignation of Ignacio Quereda, the team’s coach of 27 years, after early elimination from the World Cup and later accused Quereda of sexism and abuse. Quereda has been replaced by current coach and sporting director, Jorge Vilda, but some structural problems remain.
After losing to England in the quarter-finals of the 2022 European Championship, the Spanish players have pushed the federation to take women’s football more seriously. Boronat said the players wanted to take women’s football to an elite level but needed more support, including physiotherapists and dietitians.
The players were also unhappy with Vilda, who some held up as a symbol of Spain’s indifference to women’s football. Some players considered him unqualified to coach a team of their caliber, Boronat said. Others complained that he was controlling.
With RFEF failing to respond to their concerns, a group of 15 players individually emailed the federation to say the team’s conditions were adversely affecting their health and asked not to be called up. until the situation is resolved.
The RFEF rejected their claims and attacked them. “Players who have resigned will only return to the national team in the future if they accept their mistake and apologize,” the federation warned.
When selecting a team for the World Cup, only three of the 15 players who complained to the RFEF were called up.
Barcelona star Aitana Bonmatí, who was part of the squad, addressed the issue in an article in the Players’ Stand at the start of the World Cup in July: “I felt that the Spanish football federation should invest more in us,” she wrote.
“Some changes had to be made if we wanted to win big tournaments. That’s what we want to do, otherwise what’s the point?
Some player requests have finally been met. But frustration erupted when Rubiales – whose actions were caught on camera – gave his defiant and unapologetic speech.
“This speech opened a wound for all of us,” said Vero Boquete, a Spanish player who was banned for years from the national team after leading a protest in Quereda. in an interview with the Spanish publication Newtral.
Boquete said Rubiales’ inability to take responsibility was infuriating. What made the situation worse, she said, was that other RFEF members and staff laughed and clapped.
After the speech, more than a hundred players from different generations gathered on WhatsApp to accept tweets and statements calling for an overhaul of the federation’s leadership before returning to the pitch.
They gather under the hashtag “Se acabó” or “It’s over”.
But it remains to be seen whether Rubiales will lose his job.
Boronat, who has covered women’s football for years, said it would be difficult for the federation to do nothing, especially as Spanish society finally seems to be fed up with the lack of respect for female players.
“There is no turning back,” Boronat said. “They won’t stop this from happening, especially after so many players said, ‘Enough’. Spanish society would no longer tolerate this lack of respect and contempt for female football players.