Spain’s World Cup Winners Boycott Matches in Wake of Unwanted Kiss Controversy

Football, Football News, Jennifer Hermoso, Luis Rubiales, Soccer, Spain, Spanish soccer

In a groundbreaking move, the majority of Spain’s World Cup-winning women’s soccer players have announced their refusal to participate in the country’s upcoming Women’s Nations League matches. Their decision stems from a demand for “real structural changes” within Spanish soccer following the controversy surrounding former soccer boss Luis Rubiales’ unwanted kiss on La Roja star Jennifer Hermoso.

For nearly a month, Spain has been grappling with the incident involving ex-Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Rubiales and Hermoso, which has cast a shadow over the team’s historic World Cup victory.

Spain had been set to announce its squad for the next two matches but has now postponed the decision following a joint letter signed by 39 players, including 21 of the 23-woman World Cup squad, condemning RFEF.

“As of today, as we have communicated to RFEF, the changes which have been made are not enough so that the players feel in a safe place, where women are respected, women’s football is supported, and where we can give our all,” read the letter, shared by two-time Ballon d’Or Féminin winner Alexia Putellas on social media.

The letter outlines a series of changes the players are seeking within the Spanish federation, including the restructuring of the women’s football organization, the presidency and secretary-general offices, the communications and marketing departments, and the integrity department.

“We believe it is the moment to fight to show that these situations and practices have no place in our football or in our society, that the current structure needs change, and we are doing this so that the next generations can have a much more equal football and one at the level which we all deserve,” the letter continued.

The World players’ union FIFPRO expressed full support for the Spain Women’s National Team’s call for change, using the hashtag #SeAcabó (It’s over).

Spanish basketball legend Pau Gasol also backed the players, stating, “You have all of my support.”

This move follows a previous statement by more than 80 Spanish soccer players, including the entire 2023 World Cup squad, who pledged their support for Hermoso and declared they would not return to the national team “if the current leaders continue” and without “real structural changes” in the federation. In response, interim RFEF president Pedro Rocha initiated a process of “regeneration,” which included the removal of coach Jorge Vilda and the appointment of Montse Tomé as his successor—the first woman to hold this role.

The latest development is sure to pose significant challenges for Coach Tomé as she tries to assemble a competitive team for the upcoming matches against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26.

Luis Rubiales, who resigned from his position as RFEF president, testified in Spain’s National Court in Madrid on Friday. He has been summoned by the presiding judge as part of an investigation into potential charges of sexual assault and coercion. Rubiales has been issued a restraining order and instructed to stay at least 200 meters away from Hermoso.

The discontent among Spanish players predates the recent incident, dating back to September the previous year when 15 members of the senior women’s squad sent letters to RFEF, announcing they would no longer play for the national team unless significant changes were made throughout the coaching staff. While only three of those 15 players were part of Spain’s World Cup squad, the tension within the team persisted.

Despite the off-field struggles, Spain’s young and relatively inexperienced team produced a remarkable World Cup campaign to secure a memorable title in Australia and New Zealand. However, the success on the pitch was accompanied by a tense atmosphere within the squad, with longstanding tensions among some of the country’s best players, the coaching staff, and RFEF.

As RFEF seeks to navigate this tumultuous period, the players’ demand for change is expected to have far-reaching implications, including the potential replacement of interim president Pedro Rocha. The federation has expressed support for Rocha as it prioritizes stability before considering sweeping changes advocated by the women’s national team players.

In a press release, RFEF emphasized the need to “stabilize ourselves first in order to progress later,” highlighting the importance of gradual transformation to restore dignity and credibility to Spanish football following the events surrounding the World Cup.

The ongoing saga underscores the critical need for reform within soccer institutions worldwide to ensure a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment for all players, regardless of gender.

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