Spanish federation backs women’s soccer manager as players quit national team

Fifteen Spanish national women’s football team players have quit the senior national side amid dissatisfaction with the team’s manager. The Spanish federation is standing by the coach though.

A large chunk of the Spanish senior women’s football side say they are fed up with manager Jorge Vilda and have written to the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), imploring it to essentially choose between them and the manager.

Under Vilda – who has been at the helm since 2015 – the side reached the Euro 2022 quarterfinals before being ousted by eventual champions England. Now, 15 national team players have formally aired some of their grievances in relation to their manager.

The custodian of Spanish football revealed on Thursday that some players had emailed the federation, citing issues such as an unhealthy atmosphere in the locker room, concerns about team selection, as well as training sessions.

The federation revealed that in the emails the players also stated that the current situation significantly affects their “emotional state” and their “health” and that, “as long as it is not reversed”, they are resigning from the national team.

“The RFEF can confirm that, throughout today, we received 15 emails from 15 players of the women’s senior football team… in which they state that the current situation affects ‘significantly’ their emotional state and their health and that, ‘as long as it is not reversed’, they resign from the Spanish national team,” the federation said on Thursday.

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Spanish publication Marca revealed that among those who had written the emails there were six players from last season’s Uefa Women’s Champions League finalists, Barcelona. Also involved were Manchester United players Ona Batlle and Lucía García, and Manchester City’s Laia Aleixandri and Leila Ouahabi.

Captain Irene Paredes, and 2022 Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas were not among the players to send emails. Although Paredes acknowledged in August that the players had concerns they wished to have addressed.

“We are an ambitious team and people want to improve and win,” Paredes said at the time.

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“We believe that there are several internal aspects that need to be improved. We all would have liked the conversation to have stayed inside, but it has been leaked. What it is about is being brave and saying things, even if they are not pleasant and they change. And that’s what we’ve done.”

Nevertheless, since then the situation has not improved. Hence the drastic step taken by the rest of the team.

Manager stays

The federation, however, says it will not budge on the matter and that Vilda (who has a contract until 2024) is going nowhere.

“The RFEF is not going to allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers,” it said. “These types of actions are far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport, and are harmful.

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“In accordance with current Spanish legislation, not attending a national team call is classified as a very serious infraction and can carry sanctions of between two and five years of disqualification,” it continued.

“The RFEF, contrary to the way these players act, wants to make it clear that it will not take matters to this extreme. Instead, it will not call up the soccer players who do not want to wear the Spain shirt. The federation will only have committed footballers, even if they have to play with youth players.”

Spain – who have also qualified for the 2023 Fifa World Cup – next play two friendlies, against Sweden on 7 October and the US Women’s National Team on the 11th.

In the past, in one the most high-profile cases of national team mutiny by players, two-time men’s World Cup winners France imploded during the 2010 edition of the global spectacle – which took place in South Africa.

The players refused to train at their scheduled afternoon session, in protest against the French Football Federation’s decision to send striker Nicolas Anelka home.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “The World Cup Day that was: 20 June

The then Chelsea forward had argued with manager Raymond Domenech in the dressing room at halftime during France’s 2-0 defeat to Mexico. The players, backing their teammate, downed tools for some time before returning to the field.

They then bowed out of their group with zero wins after losing to South Africa. DM



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