Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Spain’s women’s national team was plunged into crisis on Thursday night when 15 players declared themselves unavailable for selection as long as Jorge Vilda is head coach.

Each of the players wrote to the Spanish Federation (RFEF) insisting that the situation with the coach, who they did not fire at the end of August, affected their health and emotional state and that they did not intend to return until a solution was found.

Six Barcelona players were among those who sent the email, as well as Manchester United players Ona Batlle and Lucía García and Manchester City players Laia Aleixandri and Leila Ouahabi. Captain Irene Paredes and Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas were not among them, but the latter was already unavailable for the upcoming games in October due to injury.

The federation responded with a scathing statement describing this as “unprecedented in the history of football”, a situation that “overrides sport as a matter of dignity”, and insisted it would not bow to pressure. The federation noted that refusing to play for the national team could result in a ban of between two and five years, but announced that it would simply not call up any of the players involved until they “admit their mistake and apologise”. The association will send out young players if necessary.

The letters come three weeks after a riot in which members of the Spanish national team expressed their displeasure with Vilda to president Luis Rubiales. Then they confronted Vildo, but he refused to step down. The players appeared together at a press conference – endorsed by Putellas on social media – where Paredes insisted they “didn’t ask for his dismissal” but admitted that “the captains, who represent the group, communicated how we feel. ” She said that they were assured that there would be changes.

Spain played Ukraine on September 6. On Friday, emails arrived from Patri Guijarro, Mapi León, Aitana Bonmatí, Mariona Caldentey, Sandra Paños, Andrea Pereira and Clàudia Pina from Barcelona, ​​as well as Batlle, Aleixandra, Ouahabi, Ainhoa ​​Vicente, Lucía García, Lola Gallardo, Amaiur Sarriegi and Nerea Eizagirre. None of the Real Madrid players sent an email.

Ona Batlle, who plays her club football for Manchester United, is trying to dislodge Jorge Vilda as the main player
Ona Batlle, who plays her club football for Manchester United, is trying to dislodge Jorge Vilda as the main player Photo: Oscar J Barroso/Shutterstock

The Federation refused to bow to this pressure, and the belligerent tone and language used in their response emphasized that reconciliation would be extremely difficult. In a statement issued late on Thursday evening, it was confirmed that they had received 15 letters which it said were all “coincidentally written in the same way”.

“The RFEF will not allow the players to question the continuity of the coach, as making those decisions is not part of their role,” the statement promised. “The federation will not accept any kind of pressure from any player when it comes to making sporting decisions. This type of scheming does not correspond to the values ​​of football or sport and is harmful.”

“According to Spanish legislation, failure to respond to a national team call-up is classified as a serious offense and can lead to a suspension of between two and five years. [But] The RFEF, in contrast to the behavior of these players, wants to make it clear that they will not take things to that extreme or put pressure on the players. They simply won’t invite those players who don’t want to wear the Spanish jersey.

“The RFEF will only call up players who are committed, even if it means playing with young players. The national team needs players who are committed to the project and the defense of our colors and who wear the Spanish jersey with pride. Resigned players will only return in the future if they admit their mistake and apologize.”

Spain are scheduled to play Sweden in Córdoba on October 7. Under Vilda, Spain reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2022, where they lost in extra time to England.

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