Spain rule out top players for USWNT game due to nasty row with coach and federation
Spain has excluded 17 of its top female footballers from its squad for next month’s game against USA as most of those players remain embroiled in a dispute with the country’s football federation over working conditions.
Fifteen players wrote to the federation (RFEF) last week to say the current team environment had harmed their physical and mental health, and that they would not play for the national team until the situation was “reversed”. The FA responded by releasing these emails and berating the players.
On Friday, after the unveiling a Roster that did not include any of the 15 players – and also two others they have reportedly backed, Jenni Hermoso and captain Irene Paredes – absent – head coach Jorge Vilda doubled down on his and the federation’s combative stance.
“If you don’t appreciate what it means to be here, to wear this jersey and to represent your country, you don’t deserve to come,” he told a news conference.
When asked to explain the exclusions of Paredes and Hermoso, who have not publicly resigned or criticized the federation, Vilda avoided the question, saying he would only speak about the 23 players he had picked.
Those 23 still form a World Cup-caliber team, but not the team that US Soccer thought they would get as opponents when they scheduled a game against them on Oct. 11 La Roja earlier this month. A day before the release of the Spain roster, US women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski said he, USWNT general manager Kate Markgraf and other US soccer officials were “monitoring the situation” but did not elaborate. He said the bosses “will tell me everything I need to know” and in the meantime “I don’t really have to do anything except prepare the team as best I can to win this game.”
There were some calls from fans for the USWNT to boycott the game in solidarity with the Spanish players. There was no indication from US Soccer or the players that such a significant move is on the table. However, several US players have expressed their support for the Spanish players late last week.
“I don’t know the private details, but if 15 of the best players in the world wanted to share their feedback, I would respect them enough as a person and as a player to take their concerns seriously.” Becky Sauerbrunn, the president of the USWNT Players Association, wrote on Twitter.
Alex Morgan wrote that the Spanish players “deserve so much better”.
Spanish players’ concerns include that Vilda is monitoring a “dictatorial” environment, according to a report in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo last Friday. For example, he is said to have checked the players’ bags after shopping; and when they go out for coffee he would want to know who they go with. “All movements were closely monitored,” reported the Spanish newspaper.
The players reportedly filed their complaints with Vilda and the RFEF weeks ago. You said in a statement last Friday that they had engaged in a private back-and-forth and were seeking a “firm commitment to a professional project.” When the federation refused to make such a commitment, 15 of them decided to temporarily retire from the team.
However, players have not publicly spelled out their specific concerns. Vilda alluded to this at his press conference on Friday. “We don’t even know what the players want,” he said. “I would have liked them to come out and speak clearly.”
He essentially claimed that he’s always treated players “exquisitely” and urged all former players to speak up when he didn’t.
He acknowledged the lack of dialogue with the players but argued it wasn’t his fault.
He said he never considered resigning and no player asked him to do so. (reports Late last month hinted that players had asked him to step down. The RFEF also hinted last week that players pressured them to fire Vilda. The players said in a statement they “never asked for the manager’s sacking.”)
Vilda reiterated that “players need to reflect and admit their mistake” and tried to portray himself as a victim. “I don’t wish what I’m going through these days on anyone,” he said.