Striking Spanish internationals called up to the women’s team reiterated their desire not to form part of the squad in a new blow for the shaken Spanish football federation (RFEF).
New coach Montse Tome called up 15 of the Women’s World Cup winners earlier Monday for Nations League matches, most of whom had said they did not want to play for their country until wider changes had been made at the federation.
Former president Luis Rubiales resigned three weeks after he forcibly kissed midfielder Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s triumph in Sydney on August 20, after receiving an unprecedented worldwide backlash.
Over 80 Spain players went on strike after the incident and despite Rubiales’ resignation and controversial coach Jorge Vilda being sacked, 39 players maintained their stance in a statement late Monday, demanding more structural change.
Tome did not select Hermoso, 33, in the squad, saying it was to protect her.
“Protect me from what? And from whom?” Hermoso posted on X, formerly Twitter.
She accused the Spanish federation of seeking to “intimidate and threaten” the World Cup champion players by calling them up against their will for the upcoming matches.
The players called up by Tome who were in the 39 all published a statement on social media, including two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas.
“(We made) clear … our firm will not to be summoned for justified reasons. These statements are still fully valid,” said the Spain players in their statement.
The players said they would study the potential legal actions they would be exposed to because of the RFEF selecting them — Spanish media reports say players could lose their licenses to play for multiple years if they do not obey the call-up.
They also noted in the statement that they believe the squad not being named soon enough according to FIFA regulations meant the federation “would not be able to demand” that players are called up.
“We regret that once more our federation has put us in a position in which we never wanted to be in,” added the players.
– ‘Keeps getting worse’ –
Mapi Leon, Patri Guijarro and Amaiur Sarriegi were named in the squad too despite being part of a protest which began before the World Cup, which they did not play at, and forming part of the 39 players still striking.
“Everything keeps getting worse in the RFEF,” former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas wrote on social media.
Victor Francos, president of Spain’s sports council, told radio station Cadena SER: “Tomorrow (morning) I will call a series of players and I will talk to them, the government has the obligation to intervene.”
He said he had spoken to RFEF interim president Pedro Rocha earlier Monday and that he would ask the players to play in the Nations League games, which could give Spain a path to playing in the 2024 Olympics.
“We have the obligation to show up and try to solve a problem,” added Francos.
Tome said she had spoken to the players before calling them up for Nations League qualifiers against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26 respectively.
“I trust in that the players are professionals, they have just become champions of the world, they love the national team, and I know they will be here with us tomorrow,” Tome told a news conference.
– ‘Protect her’ –
Tome said she left Hermoso out of the squad for her own good. “We are with Jenni on everything, and with all the players,” added the new coach.
“The best way to protect her is like this, I have worked five years with her.”
Swiss forward Ana Crnogorcevic, who signed for Atletico Madrid this summer from Barcelona labelled Tome’s squad “disrespectful”.
“This is insane… how can you threaten your own players like this… call them to the national team, when they said they want clear changes before they come back!” wrote Crnogorcevic on X.
“This is soooo disrespectful… clearly they don’t care and they don’t allow them to make their own decision.”
Tome’s predecessor Vilda was sacked on September 5, with Rubiales resigning on September 10, later appearing in Spain’s top criminal court as part of an investigation into sexual assault and coercion regarding the kiss.
Rubiales has been banned from going within 200 metres of Hermoso, who says the kiss was not consensual.