They said “it’s over” and they stick with it. And the order opens a new avenue of negotiation. The bulk of the players who were world champions a month ago informed the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) this Friday morning that they were giving up playing for the national team. This was also announced through a statement issued just 15 minutes before 4:00 p.m., when the new national coach, Montse Tomé, was scheduled to appear, who was to offer the call for the next Nations League matches, on the 22nd against to Sweden (Gothenburg) and on the 26th against Switzerland (Córdoba).
The soccer players spoke forcefully, pointing out areas to improve. Message accompanied by demands and surrounded by significant media pressure that permeated the federation. The body that governs Spanish football immediately tried to redirect the situation and speak openly with the players to see what things could be changed, even though the RFEF is governed by a management commission after the resignation of former president Luis Rubiales and it is difficult to apply. all required changes.
In the note, the soccer players insisted on their “enormous discontent” after what happened at the World Cup celebrations. That is, the non-consensual kiss of soccer player Jenni Hermoso, which this Friday led Rubiales to appear as a defendant before the judge for sexual assault. And they added: “These events are not something specific and go beyond sports. In the face of these acts we must have zero tolerance, for our companion, for ourselves and for all women.” For all these reasons, the statement is not so much a plan as a call to negotiation. Now, the federation and footballers are looking for solutions.
The 39 players who sign the note—21 of the 23 world champions in Australia—explain a series of conditions that they believe are basic “to be able to move forward and reach a structure that does not tolerate or take part in such degrading events.” And this is how they break it down, pointing out specific positions and positions, even if they do not indicate names and surnames. “The specified changes to the RFEF are based on zero tolerance for those people who, from a position within the RFEF, have had, incited, hidden or applauded attitudes that go against the dignity of women. All these people must be far away from the system that should protect us and that unfortunately is far removed from an advanced society.”
These changes are: restructuring of the women’s football organizational chart (appoint a new sports director and change the technical staff); restructuring of the presidential cabinet and general secretary (Andreu Camps, Rubiales’ right hand man); resignation of the president of the RFEF (Pedro Rocha, appointed by the former president); restructuring of the communication and marketing area (among others the head of communication, Pablo García Cuervo, who is held responsible for some reprehensible statement in which the victim, Hermoso, was blamed); and restructuring of the integrity department (which obviously has not responded as expected).
Despite the unity shown by the players, who met electronically on two occasions on Thursday afternoon, some cracks opened between them. The example is the World Cup players Claudia Zornoza – who took the opportunity to withdraw from the national team – and Athenea del Castillo, Real Madrid players, as well as Sheila García, from Atlético, who left the World Cup camp due to injury. Some others, still signing the statement, offered to wear the red one. On the other side of the net is the bulk of the players, who consider the forced resignation of Rubiales and the dismissal of coach Jorge Vilda, whom they considered controlling and low-level, to be insufficient. “The changes that have occurred are not enough for the players to feel in a safe place, where women are respected, there is a commitment to women’s football and where we can give our maximum performance,” the note concluded.
Absorbed the message from the soccer players, the RFEF board of directors — which had a meeting already scheduled after Rubiales’ departure — debated the next step to take. Thus, it will be the interim president, Pedro Rocha, who will lead the transition process in the federation, which will raise a consultation with the Higher Sports Council (CSD) to advance the elections so that they can be held in the first quarter of 2024. Until then, Rocha will chair the managing committee.
As night fell, the federation wanted to demonstrate, in an official statement, its absolute commitment “to continue undertaking essential changes that restore the functioning of the entity.” And they added: “This institution is convinced that the transformations are necessary and, therefore, they will be carried out as quickly as possible, in a progressive manner.”
“It is essential to guarantee the future of Spanish football to recover the dignity and credibility lost after the events of the World Cup,” Rocha pointed out.
Now he knows that the players will not give in. Alexia Putellas, double Ballon d’Or winner, already announced when the Medal of Honor from the Parliament of Catalonia was awarded to the Barcelona players on Wednesday. “We are here to stay and help those who will come. These days we have seen it with the serious situation that we are experiencing with the RFEF and the changes that we are requesting so that no woman, both inside and outside of football, ever again has to experience situations such as lack of respect or abuse.” Their fight is not over.
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