15 players on the Spanish women’s national team have threatened to resign unless coach Jorge Vilda resigns or is fired, the Spanish Federation (RFEF) announced Thursday.
The players all sent emails to the RFEF declaring that they would not play on the national team unless Vilda was removed, stating that his tenure harmed their health and emotional state. The reasons for the players' discontent are somewhat unclear, but rumors point to dissatisfaction with Vilda's training sessions, injury policies, and the general culture of the team under his leadership. Under Vilda Spain was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Women’s European Championship this year when the team lost to England in extra-time.
The RFEF responded with an aggressive statement criticising the players, saying they will not allow them to question athletic decisions and calling their actions “outside the values of football” and “far from exemplary.” The statement asserted that “This fact has gone from being a sporting issue to a dignity issue. The National Team is non-negotiable. It is an unprecedented situation in the history of football, both male and female, in Spain and worldwide.”
Although making it clear that they view the players’ refusal to play under Vilda as “a very serious action [which] can carry between 2 and 5 years of disqualification”, the RFEF has said that “contrary to the way these players act” they will not sanction players but instead simply “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.”
The players who sent emails are Manchester City’s Leila Ouahabi and Laia Aleixandri; Manchester United’s Ona Batlle and Lucia Garcia; Barcelona’s Claudia Pina, Mapi Leon, Sandra Panos, Aitana Bonmati, Patri Guijarro, and Mariona Caldentey; Ainhoa Vicente Moraza, Andrea Pereira, Lola Gallardo, Nerea Eizagirre, and Amaiur Sarriegi. Not included were any Real Madrid players or current Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who however is already ineligible for the national team due to injury.
The crisis comes after an earlier failed attempt by the players to oust Vilda at the end of August, when a majority of the squad asked Vilda to resign. The players soon appeared in a press conference — led by captain Irene Paredes, who was not part of the later ultimatum — saying that they had been reassured changes would take place.
Vilda has led the team since 2015, when he replaced Ignacio Quereda, who had resigned after being called on to do so by his players.
The RFEF has declared they will only allow any of the protesting players back on the national team “if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”