The Spanish women’s national team went into crisis on Thursday evening when 15 players declared themselves unavailable for selection as long as Jorge Vilda continues to be the head coach.
Each of the players wrote to the Spanish Federation (RFEF) insisting that the situation with the manager, who they were unable to remove in late August, affected their health and emotional state and that they have no plans to return until when a solution is found.
Six Barcelona players were among those who sent emails, as were Manchester United players Ona Batlle and Lucía García and Manchester City players Laia Aleixandri and Leila Ouahabi. Captain Irene Paredes and Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas were not among them, but the injury meant the latter was not already available for the upcoming matches in October.
The Federation responded with a strong statement, describing it as “unprecedented in the history of football”, a situation that “goes beyond sport to be a question of dignity”, and insisting that it would not give in to pressure. The Federation noted that refusing to play for the national team could result in a disqualification of two to five years, but said it would not call any of the players involved until he “admits his mistake and apologizes”. The Federation will field youth players if necessary.
The letters come three weeks after a mutiny in which members of the Spanish team expressed their dissatisfaction with Vilda to President Luis Rubiales. They then confronted Vilda as well, but she refused to resign. The players appeared together in a press conference – supported on social media by Putellas – in which Paredes insisted he “did not ask for the dismissal” but admitted that “the captains, representing the group, have communicated how we feel” . He said they were reassured that there would be changes.
Spain played Ukraine on 6 September. On Friday, emails arrived from Patri Guijarro, Mapi León, Aitana Bonmatí, Mariona Caldentey, Sandra Paños, Andrea Pereira and Clàudia Pina from Barcelona, as well as Batlle, Aleixandri, Ouahabi, Ainhoa Vicente, Lucía García, Lola Gallardo, Amaiur Sarriegi and Nerea Eizagirre. None of the Real Madrid players have sent emails.
The Federation refused to give in to such pressure, and the bellicose tone and language used in their response emphasized that reconciliation will be extremely difficult. A statement released late Thursday evening confirmed he had received 15 letters which, he noted, were all “randomly spelled alike.”
“The RFEF will not allow players to question the continuity of the manager, as making those decisions is not part of their role,” he vows. “The Federation will not accept any kind of pressure from any player when it comes to making sporting decisions. This kind of intrigue does not fit the values of football or sport and are harmful. “
Under Spanish law, failure to answer the call of the national team is classified as a serious infrastructure and can lead to suspensions of two to five years. [But] the RFEF, contrary to the behavior of these players, wants to make it clear that it will not take things to that extreme or put pressure on the players. It simply will not call those players who do not wish to wear the Spanish jersey.
“The RFEF will only call committed players, even if it means playing with the youngsters. The national team needs players who are committed to designing and defending our colors and who are proud to wear the Spain shirt. Players who have resigned will return in the future only if they admit their mistake and apologize. “
Spain are expected to face Sweden in Cordoba on 7 October. Under Vilda, Spain reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2022, where they lost in extra time to England.