Sep 15, 2023, 03:24 PM ET
Spain’s World Cup-winning footballers will continue their boycott of the women’s national team despite the resignation of Luis Rubiales and dismissal of Jorge Vilda, they announced on Friday.
The squad for UEFA Nations League games against Sweden and Switzerland this month is due to be announced on Friday, but the players have sent a joint email to the Royal Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] explaining that they are not ready to return.
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Before the squad announcement, a statement signed by 39 players was released confirming that they would not return until there was changes within the federation.
Athenea del Castillo and Claudia Zornoza were the only players from the World Cup-winning squad to not sign the letter, with Zornoza later announcing her retirement from international football.
The statement read: “Players of the Spanish national team wish to express enormous dissatisfaction at what happened in the medal ceremony and at the general assembly afterwards. The events that were unfortunately seen around the world are not punctual and go beyond sporting issues. In the face of these acts, we must have zero tolerance, for our teammate, for ourselves and for all women.
“Several weeks after the events, we want to make public various meetings with the RFEF in which we have expressed in a clear manner the changes we feel are fundamental to be able to advance and arrive to a structure that does not tolerate such denigrating actions.
“At all times the players have had an open attitude to dialogue, seeking to clearly convey and argue the reasons we believe change is necessary to be able to carry out our work at the highest level with the respect we deserve.
Spain’s World Cup-winning squad will not be available for the upcoming Nations League matches. Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images
“The changes specified to the RFEF are based on zero tolerance for those people at the RFEF that have had, incited, hidden or applauded attitudes that go against the dignity of women. We believe firmly that decisive changes are needed in the leadership positions at the RFEF and to the women’s football department.
“All these people should be away from the system that we feel should protect us and that is unfortunately far away from an advanced society.”
An RFEF spokesperson said the federation was in talks with the players and had postponed a press conference in which recently-appointed coach Montse Tome was set to announce Spain’s squad.
“The federation wants to reinforce its commitment to the world champions, of whom it is extremely proud,” the RFEF said in a statement.
“It is essential to undertake a gradual transformation to guarantee the future of Spanish football,” it said.
The players called on the restructuring of the women’s football within the RFEF, the cabinet of the presidency, the communication and marketing department and integrity department.
The letter also called for the resignation of the president, although did not clarify if that meant Rubiales, who has already stepped down, or interim president Pedro Rocha.
The RFEF said Rocha would remain in his position until the next leadership election.
The players added: “We have notified the RFEF that the changes so far are not enough for the players to feel safe, where women are respected and there is a commitment to women’s football that allows us to give our best performances.
“We want to finish by saying the players of the Spanish national team are professionals and what fills us with most pride is wearing the shirt of the national team. Therefore, we believe it is time to fight to show these situations and practices have no place in football or society.
“The current structure needs changes so that the next generations can have an equal playing playing field to the level which we all deserve.”
— Alexia Putellas (@alexiaputellas) September 15, 2023
Spain’s success at the World Cup has been overshadowed by ousted RFEF president Rubiales’ behaviour in the aftermath of the 1-0 victory over England.
Rubiales is facing sexual assault charges for his unsolicited kiss on forward Jenni Hermoso — who says that the kiss was without consent and that she felt the victim of an aggressive act — and Spain’s High Court on Friday imposed a restraining order to prevent him approaching Hermoso.
He is also facing coercion charges for putting pressure on Hermoso and her relatives to say that she justified and approved what happened, according to the prosecutors’ report.
FIFA and Spain’s top sports court [TAD] have also opened investigations into Rubiales’ conduct after the final, when he also grabbed his crotch, hugged and kissed other players, and threw another player over his shoulder.
After initially refusing to resign, Rubiales, who maintains the kiss was consensual, eventually stepped down this past Sunday, three weeks after the final in Sydney.
Before Rubiales left, World Cup-winning Spain coach Vilda had been sacked as interim RFEF president Rocha carried out structural changes in a bid to bring the players back into the fold.
Vilda was replaced by his former assistant Montse Tomé, who is set to be presented officially later on Friday.
On Aug. 25, after a speech in which Rubiales refused to resign, all 23 members of the World Cup-winning squad said they would not play for their country again under the regime. In total, 81 current and former internationals put their names to that statement.
“We are here to stay, to help those that come after us, because there is still a long way to go, as we are seeing these days with the serious situation we are facing with the [RFEF],” Spain and Barcelona midfielder Alexia Putellas said this week.
“The changes we are all asking for are so that no woman, inside or outside football, ever has to live a situation of disrespect or abuse.”
“We need consensus, courage and leadership from the institutions. We will not stop here — those who fought before us deserve it; we deserve it for the effort we make every day; and all the girls and boys who today dream of being like us deserve it. We will not fail you.”
Spain play Sweden in Gothenburg on Sept. 22, then return home to host Switzerland in Cordoba on Sept. 26. Both games are in the Nations League, which also serves as a qualifying event for next summer’s Olympics.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.