Most of Spain’s 23-member World Cup-winning women’s football team have jointly issued a statement expressing their dissatisfaction with the current state of football in Spain and their lack of safety and respect. They have declared their unavailability for future national team selection until substantial changes are made.
In a comprehensive two-page declaration, the players voiced their immense displeasure regarding the developments following their World Cup triumph. They specifically mentioned the controversial kiss shared by the Spanish football federation (RFEF) president, Luis Rubiales, with Jenni Hermoso and the events during the RFEF’s extraordinary assembly. They stressed that they require more significant structural reforms beyond the removal of the disgraced Rubiales and the dismissal of the divisive manager, Jorge Vilda.
The signatories are calling for a complete overhaul of women’s football in Spain, the resignation of interim president Pedro Rocha, and a complete restructuring of the communications, marketing, and ethics departments.
“The women’s football team statement emphasized that the proposed changes to the RFEF stem from a policy of zero tolerance towards individuals within the RFEF who have displayed, promoted, concealed, or endorsed behaviors that undermine the dignity of women.” “We firmly believe that substantial changes are necessary in leadership positions within the RFEF, particularly within the realm of women’s football.”
Consequently, the Spanish football federation has decided to postpone the announcement of Montse Tomé’s squad for the upcoming matches against Sweden and Switzerland. This announcement came just over an hour before the squad announcement was scheduled to take place. Montse Tomé, the former assistant coach, took over after Jorge Vilda’s dismissal and now faces a difficult decision regarding player selections.
Athenea del Castillo and Claudia Zornoza
Notably, two players from the World Cup-winning squad, Athenea del Castillo and Claudia Zornoza, did not sign the player statement. Reports from Spain suggest that Del Castillo wishes to focus on her football career, while Zornoza has released her own statement indicating her prior plans to announce her international retirement and expressing support for her fellow players.
Last month, the players had already signaled their reluctance to play for the national team if the existing leadership persisted. They had demanded substantial structural reforms to support the continued growth of the national team.
While many expected the dismissal of Vilda and the departure of Rubiales to pave the way for the players’ return, their latest statement underscores their dedication to actively challenging practices and situations that do not belong in football or society. They emphasize the need for structural changes that ensure gender equality in football for future generations.
Rubiales faced legal scrutiny during the drafting of the players’ statement, as state prosecutors investigated allegations that his kiss constituted sexual assault against Hermoso. He received a restraining order preventing him from approaching Hermoso within 200 meters and prohibiting any form of communication with her.
After Spain’s exit from the 2022 Euros at the quarter-final stage, 15 players previously signed a letter citing adverse health effects due to the national team’s environment. The federation staunchly supported Vilda and demanded apologies from the players. Ultimately, only three of the 15 players returned to play for the team during the World Cup.
Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas, a two-time Ballon d’Or winner, reiterated the players’ call for sweeping reforms. She emphasized the need for changes to ensure that no woman, within or outside of football, should endure situations involving disparagement, disrespect, or abuse ever again. Putellas called for consensus, courage, and leadership from institutions, stressing that their fight for change would continue.