More than half of the Spanish women’s team no longer wants to play in protest against their coach.
The players have indicated to the Spanish federation that being in the team has “significantly” affected their “emotional state” and their health.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) interpreted the measure as an attempt by the players to “pressure” their leadership to fire the strategist Jorge Vilda, whom the players have publicly questioned in recent weeks.
In a statement issued Thursday night, the federation said that “it will not allow the players to question the continuity of the national team coach and his coaching staff, since making such decisions does not fall within their powers.”
“The Federation is not going to accept any type of pressure from any player when adopting sports measures,” said the RFEF. “These types of maneuvers are far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport and are harmful.”
The players, however, insisted in their own public statement on Friday that they have not asked for Vilda’s dismissal, but that they want a clear commitment to a professional project in order to obtain their best performance.
The rift between the players and the federation erupted on Thursday when 15 of them sent identical emails to the federation asking not to be called up again because of the emotional pain playing for the team meant. The email sent by the players was published by local media on Friday. The federation confirmed to The Associated Press that the email was genuine and the names of the 15 players.
“I inform you that due to the latest events that have occurred in the Spanish team and the situation generated, facts of which you are aware, my emotional state and therefore my health are significantly affected,” the email highlighted. “Due to all this, I currently do not see myself in a position to be a selectable player for our national team and for this reason I request not to be called up until this situation is reversed.”
“My commitment to the team in the past, present and future was, is and will be absolute,” he concluded.
The list of 15 players who sent emails included the team’s third captain, Patri Guijarro, goalkeeper Sandra Paños and midfielder Aitana Bonmatí.
Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas did not send the email but joined the players in rebellion by releasing a statement on Friday reiterating her position.
This month, Guijarro appeared at a press conference with the team’s first captain, Irene Paredes, and striker Jennifer Hermoso to explain his problems with Vilda. Neither Paredes nor Hermoso are among the 15 who sent emails.
At that news conference, Paredes said the players were not happy with the results of the team that reached the European Championship quarterfinals in July before losing 2-1 to eventual champions England.
“It’s a difficult moment for the whole team because we don’t like to be like this. We are an ambitious team and people want to improve and win. We believe that there are several internal aspects that need to be improved,” Paredes stressed.
For his part, Guijarro added that “there is a general discomfort in the team after what we experienced at the end of the European Championship. We think we have a group that can achieve big titles. We think and we feel. And after what they experienced in the European Championship, the group decides to transfer the message to the coach. We think we can win something important”.
Vilda also spoke about the fracture of the team during the European Championship in England.
“The atmosphere in the locker room has always been good,” he said. “In the first 15 days of the European Championship the atmosphere was good. The competition matches arrived and that has changed something. It was a football paradise and I hope that in the future it can be. We have a team of good players and we need a step to be a great team”.
In that press conference, neither player mentioned their emotional health. That has led to speculation in the Spanish media that there may be more to the decision than just disappointing results.
“The national team needs players who are committed to the project, defending our colors and proud to wear the Spain shirt,” said the Spanish federation. “The soccer players who have submitted their resignation will only return to the discipline of the national team in the future if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”
Spain is scheduled to play friendlies at home against Sweden on October 7 and the United States four days later. Vilda is expected to announce his roster for those games next week.
The Women’s World Cup is just around the corner, in July next year in Australia and New Zealand.