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15 Spanish players withdraw from national team games

At 19:00 on Thursday evening, 15 different e-mails from 15 national team players arrived in the inbox of the management of the Spanish women’s national football team.

All 15 emails had the same text and content:

«Everyone communicates that the current situation in the national team is seriously affecting their mental state, their health and that as long as the situation does not change, they will withdraw from playing for the Spanish national team» announced the Spanish Football Federation (Real Federación Española de Futbol, ​​RFEF) late Thursday evening.

“The current situation” will be about national team manager Jorge Vilda’s leadership. Several players are said to have described it as a toxic environment to be part of in the national team and questioned Vilda’s competence as head coach.

Read more about the dissatisfaction and Vilda’s coaching background further down in the case.

Jorge Vilda and Aitana Bonmati during this summer’s EC. Now the latter has withdrawn from the national team. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino

Threatens with exclusion: – Does not allow extortion

The announcement that 15 players no longer wish to play, as long as the 41-year-old is national team manager, has not gone down well with the association.

«The RFEF will not allow the players to question the national team manager’s future. These are decisions that are outside their area of ​​expertise. The association does not allow any form of extortion from any playerr”, continues the association in its press release.

The RFEF believes that the players’ behavior is far from the values ​​that can be expected from Spanish national team players.

Furthermore, the association writes that making yourself unavailable for national team games without a valid reason is considered a serious breach of the rules which can lead to a two to five year ban from the national team.

«We do not take out players who do not want to wear the Spanish national team kit. The association only counts on players who commit to this – regardless of whether we have to play with junior players», it is further stated in the press release before it is written that the 15 players can only return to the national team if they acknowledge their mistakes and apologize.

National team captain Irene Paredes after Spain’s EC exit against England. Photo: BERNADETT SZABO

At the time of writing, the 15 players have not made a public statement about the national team refusal.

According to Cadena Cope journalist Andrea Peláez Marzo, who works closely on Spanish women’s football, the players are shocked by the response from the federation and angry that their professionalism is being questioned.

The player group wants to calm down before they come up with a response to the RFEF’s harsh press release.

It has also not been publicly confirmed who the 15 players are, but according to several Spanish media, six Barcelona profiles and a number of other key national team players should be on the list.

These 15 players refuse to play for Spain

  • Ainhoa ​​Vicente Moraza (Atletico Madrid)
  • Patri Guijarro (Barcelona)
  • Leila Ouahabi (Manchester City)
  • Lucia García (Manchester United)
  • Maria Pilar “Mapi” León (Barcelona)
  • Ona Batlle (Manchester United)
  • Laia Aleixandri (Manchester City)
  • Claudia Pina (Barcelona)
  • Aitana Bonmatí (Barcelona)
  • Andrea Pereira (Club America)
  • Mariona Caldentey (Barcelona)
  • Sandra Panos (Barcelona)
  • Lola Gallardo (Atlético Madrid)
  • Nerea Eizaguirre (Real Sociedad)
  • Amaiur Sarriegi (Real Sociedad)

Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas is not among the 15 players. The reason for this is that Putellas is long-term injured with a torn cruciate ligament and is therefore not relevant for national team games for a long time. She has therefore not stated that she is not available for withdrawals.

This is the background for the dissatisfaction

It was earlier this autumn that the dissatisfaction with Vilda was leaked to several Spanish media. The player group must not have been satisfied with how the 41-year-old handled the team over time and during this summer’s EC.

Ahead of the national team meeting in September, the national team’s captain trio Irene Paredes, Patri Guijarro and Jennifer Hermoso are said to have initiated a meeting with football president Luis Rubiales.

Dissatisfaction was expressed here and the trio stated on behalf of the group that changes were needed for this team to achieve its sporting potential. Several media outlets have claimed that the trio demanded Vilda be fired, but this has not been confirmed.

They must have spoken on deaf ears. President Rubiales believed that Vilda was competent in the job and that it should continue as before.

Football president Luis Rubiales speaks in front of the Spanish women's national football team back in 2019. Photo: Carmelo Rubio

Football president Luis Rubiales speaks in front of the Spanish women’s national football team back in 2019. Photo: Carmelo Rubio

Information about the meeting was leaked to the press. At the start of meetings in September, two separate press conferences were arranged: First one with national team manager Jorge Vilda, then another with the captain trio.

– I am disappointed and hurt by this situation. What happens in the dressing room, stays in the dressing room and must be resolved there. My door is always open, Vilda stated from the podium to the press corps in attendance.

When the national team manager left the podium, captain Irene Paredes took over with colleagues Guijarro and Hermoso. The entire playing squad entered the press conference room and watched the session together with the media.

– We want to give our version. What has happened is that the captains, on behalf of the group, relayed to Jorge (Vilda) and connected the feelings of the player group. As captains, that’s our job. There have been many leaks, many of them false, Paredes stated before claiming that the captains had never asked for the national team boss to be fired.

Paredes stated that the trio and the group of players had received promises that there would be changes to the national team to improve the situation.

Jorge Vilda is in tough weather, but receives the full support of the Spanish Football Federation. Photo: ANDY BUCHANAN

Jorge Vilda is in tough weather, but receives the full support of the Spanish Football Federation. Photo: ANDY BUCHANAN

Vilda’s coaching background

Dissatisfaction with the current national team manager is not new and in many ways parallels can be drawn to the old “regime” of the Spanish national team.

Ignacio “Nacho” Quereda led Spain for 27 years until 2015. There have subsequently been strong accusations from national team players that Quereda engaged in regular psychological abuse. In 2021, a documentary came out in which several former national team players opened up about this.

After the World Cup in 2015, the entire playing squad demanded that Quereda step down. The national team trio Veronica Boquete, Ainhoa ​​Tiraou and Vicky Losada were at the front and it ended with him resigning from the position.

The three players never played again for the Spanish national team.

National team manager Nacho Quereda comforts Veronica Boquete after the European Championship exit in the quarter-finals against Norway in 2013. Boquete spoke out about the toxic environment under Quereda and ensured that he resigned as Spanish national team manager in 2015, but she was never included in the national team again afterwards . Photo: Karl Nilsson / BILDBYRÅN

National team manager Nacho Quereda comforts Veronica Boquete after the European Championship exit in the quarter-finals against Norway in 2013. Boquete spoke out about the toxic environment under Quereda and ensured that he resigned as Spanish national team manager in 2015, but she was never included in the national team again afterwards . Photo: Karl Nilsson / BILDBYRÅN

It was after Quereda’s departure that Jorge Vilda was hired as the new A national team manager.

The details of today’s dissatisfaction with Vilda have not been clearly communicated, but it is said to be about an unhealthy performance environment and Vilda’s competence as a coach.

The job as manager of Spain’s A national team is Jorge Vilda’s first job as head coach of a senior team. The 41-year-old is the son of Ángel Vilda, who was physical trainer Johan Cruyff’s support staff in Barcelona.

Photo: Instagram.com/mrapinoe

Photo: Instagram.com/mrapinoe

When Vilda senior began a coaching career in the association as head coach for the Spanish U15 and U17 national teams on the girls’ side, son Vilda joined his father’s support apparatus.

Jorge Vilda took over the main responsibility for the U19 national team after his father in 2014, just one year before he was hired as national team manager.

The 15 players’ decision receives great support in the player community.

Among others, USA profile Megan Rapinoe praises the players’ action.

“You have the 16th player standing with you. So many players together like this is so powerful. We should all listen,” writes Rapinoe in a story on Instagram.


The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Spanish players withdraw national team games

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