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  • Writer's pictureSavannah Miscik

"Unprecedented": Mass Resignations Shake Spanish Women's Soccer Team

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) put out a statement Thursday evening announcing that 15 players on the senior national team have effectively resigned.

These players sent identically worded emails decrying their treatment at the hands of Head Coach Jorge Vilda, asserting that “as long as it [the Vilda situation] is not reversed,” they will not play for Spain. These players include stars Mapi León, Ona Batlle, Sandra Paños, and Aitana Bonmatí.

The Spanish FA doubled down on Vilda, declaring that the team needs committed players who want to play. More importantly, the federation stated that these 15 players will only be allowed to rejoin the national team if they “accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”

“It is an unprecedented situation in the history of football, both male and female, in Spain and worldwide,” the RFEF said in its statement.

This is partially untrue – many international soccer teams, men’s and women’s, have gone on strike previously. If anything, striking is part of the DNA of women’s soccer. Just ask the United States, Denmark, Australia, and Argentina, who have all participated in strikes for better pay over the years.

That being said, a player conditionally resigning because of a coach’s conduct has only happened a few times. Most recently was Sarah Bouhaddi’s indefinite retirement from the French national team over Corinne Diacre’s alleged mistreatment in 2020. Estefanía Banini also went on strike from 2019 to 2022 over Argentinian Head Coach Carlos Borrello's alleged retaliation against players who criticized him. The only “unprecedented” part in the Spain case is that it’s not just one player, it’s 15.

Lastly, the RFEF stressed that only loyal players will be selected to the team, even if it means that more youth will be playing as a result. This is of particular interest to international soccer fans because Spain is slated to play two friendly matches against Sweden and the United States in the beginning of October. Presuming Vilda is still in power by then, Spain could be without many of its foundational players at the start of their World Cup preparation. Only time will tell how this will permanently affect the Spanish team, but at the present moment, they seem to be at a critical juncture in their history.

Update 9/23/22 - The players of the Spanish national team have released a response to the RFEF statement, rebuking the federation's attempt to "infantilize" them.

"Some may think that, eight months before a World Cup, a group of PLAYERS of MAXIMUM LEVEL, which is what we consider ourselves, are considering this decision, as it has been implied publicly, as a whim or blackmail?" the statement reads in part.

According to the players, their demand is simply to put an end to the "situations" that are jeopardizing their mental and physical health. They never asked for Vilda's firing, just to alleviate the precarious circumstances they find themselves in and improve team performance. They also make it clear that they do not want "public wars" with the RFEF.

"By requesting not to be summoned, we penalize our professional career, our economy, and for of course we will continue to build something important in women's football. Because getting to where we are right now has taken years of effort from many people. And there are still many things to improve as it is being demonstrated recently."

Update 9/30/22 - The roster for the Spanish national team for their upcoming friendlies against Sweden and the United States was announced on September 30. None of the 15 players who spoke out against the RFEF were called up. The roster is comprised of mostly youth players, as predicted by both fans and the RFEF themselves.


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