The letters arrived at the federation around seven o’clock on Thursday evening: 15 of them were written in the first person, but all said the same thing in the same words. The letters say: “I inform you that the events and the situation in the Spanish national team, a situation you know about, have a significant impact on my emotional state and thus on my health.” “As a result, I currently do not consider myself in a position to be selected for the national team, and I ask not to be called to the national team until the situation is resolved.”
Three weeks after the last one, another uprising began. Within a minute, more than half of the Spanish team walked away, determined that they would not return unless nothing changed and Jorge Wilda was in charge – even if they did not make it clear in those terms, the coach was not named. In August, they demanded from the federation’s president, Luis Rubiales, changes to women’s football, including Wilda; When Rubiales refused, they tried to get Vilda in, but she wouldn’t go. Now they’ve decided they’re going to do this instead. This cannot continue on more than one level.
For some of those players, referring to their emotional state and health was not an empty word. There is no suggestion of inappropriate behavior, but the relationship with Vilda was broken – if only because it was a relationship at all – and the effect was detrimental to all of them. Now the relationship with the federation was also exposed in public and gradually deteriorated. A subsequent statement released by the players on Friday night deepened the split.
Most of the Spanish players think that Vilda is in control; many consider him incompetent. It had also become a symbol of something wider: a sentiment that repeatedly proved Rubiales didn’t really believe in women’s football. The means they chose could be the only means, according to those close to the players. In a statement released by the players on Friday, they regretted having “reached this point” to “move on”.
In part, this can be seen as part of the process of professionalisation in women’s football in Spain: as the game progresses, the level rises and the demands increase, some are left behind. Frankly, many players believe that this is what Wilda should be. Instead, he is still there, seven years after taking over as national team coach. Others too. At the same time, they are increasingly aware of their collective cause, of the success they can and perhaps should aspire to, the ambitions they feel others cannot share.
So emails were sent simultaneously from Patri Guijarro, Mapi León, Aitana Bonmatí, Mariona Caldentey, Sandra Paños, Andrea Pereira, Clàudia Pina, Ona Batlle, Laia Aleixandri, Leila Ouahabi, Ainhoa Vicente, Lucíala. Gallardo, Amaiur Sarriegi and Nerea Eizagirre. The core of the team consists of six players from Barcelona, two from Manchester City, Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad, plus one from the United States.
It was more than them. Alexia Putellas did not sign the Ballon d’Or winner, but injury meant that he would not be available for the matches in October anyway. He has previously expressed his support for his teammates and repeated it Friday by releasing their joint statement. Captain Irene Paredes felt fingers pointed at her when she became the protagonist of the gang’s rebellion in August and chose to step back, but agreed with the goals. If none of the Real Madrid players wrote, it was at least partly because their club pressured them not to join, a political dimension to how it all played out.
The players did not consider it a case of rejection from the national team; their choice of language in their first letter reflected a desire to avoid it, and in their statement the next day, even the RFEF he asked them confirming whether they exist, only then revealing their collective response. They called RFEF’s statement “partial and interesting”.
The original email insisted they were “completely committed to the national team” past, present and future and wanted to “seek the best for our national team”. What that solution would be was not disclosed, and there was no full, public explanation. No real details were given when the players spoke in August, and both emails and statements were short on detail, instead specifying “situation” and “events.” The main question – why? – no answer was given.
Partly because it didn’t need to be identified, at least not then: those emails were sent privately to the RFEF – until the next day, when the exact content was revealed by Cadena Ser radio – and they were duly cited. a situation where you “know”. The Federation was not entirely wrong to interpret the emails as “questions”.[ing] trainer’s persistence’, is a ‘pressured’ tool. He already knew, but he did not take the side of the players, but acted against them.
It was the federation that made the letters public, and when they responded with a statement a little over four hours later, the players were outraged. The combative content and content of the statement did not invite rapprochement. Describing the move as “unprecedented in the history of football”, unethical and disrespectful, the federation insisted it would not bow to pressure. There will be no negotiations; this rebellion would simply be put down. It may not be that simple.
He reminded the players that refusing to play for the national team could result in a two- to five-year sentence and declared that he would not call up any of the participating players until they “admit their mistakes and apologize.” “The RFEF will not allow players to question the coach’s continuity as it is not part of their role to make those decisions,” the statement said. The following night, the players responded by saying they would “not tolerate” the RFEF’s “childish” tone.
In August, in an emergency press conference led by the captains and supported by Putellas on social media, after the story of the revolt against their coach, Paredes claimed that the players did not want Vilda to be fired. He insisted that they know their job is just to play, but “sometimes you have to speak up, even if people don’t like it,” and expressed confidence that things will change.
They don’t have it. If the federation thought it had covered up the crisis, it exploded again in early September with comfortable wins against Hungry and Ukraine. There is not one simple explanation, but rather a number of small, cumulative explanations.
For some Spanish players, joining the national team has become something to be endured rather than enjoyed. One of the sources close to them talks about the anxiety, the players in tears, the unstable atmosphere. There is very little communication with Vilda, who is both a coach and sports director. The environment became tense, sometimes unpleasant.
Some on the staff consider the coach to be in a position he doesn’t deserve, put there more by personal relationships than expertise, protected by a president who doubts he really believes in women’s football. According to them, the positions of power around him are occupied by equally unprofessional persons.
Vilda’s tactics, methods and group management faced internal criticism from players who demanded more, his game plans lacking or even non-existent. In a statement issued by the players on Friday, they reiterated that they were not calling for his sacking “as has been claimed”, but were “expressing constructively and honestly what we felt could improve the performance of the group”.
Spain are no longer at the level they were in 2015, but far beyond that, Villa is becoming a symbol of something bigger in the eyes of many of them: a federation that can’t keep up with this progress. The players decided that something had to be done. Traditional routes were unavailable to them, so they preferred collective action.
“Maybe the players have gone too far,” said Jose Manuel Franco, head of Spain’s sports council. “Vilda’s situation is very difficult at the moment. I hope there can be a dialogue and they can come to an agreement. The federation should solve this for the benefit of women’s football.
It’s not that different from what players say all the time. At 18.35 local time on Friday evening, each player released a collective statement on social media saying the same thing, in which they stood firm, playing this conflict into a larger context and reminding everyone of the risk they were taking. “Can anyone seriously take this as a prank or blackmail?” he asked.
“We regret to note that we must reach this point in the context of women’s sports, unfortunately, as historically with other teams and other sports, to advance a strong, ambitious professional project for the present and the future. future generations”.