Fifteen of Spain’s top female footballers have written a letter asking not to be called up to the national team. They say their head coach’s training methods harmed their emotional state and their health.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said in a statement on Thursday that it had received 15 emails from 15 players asking not to be selected and that the players had a problem with national team coach Jorge Vilda and his employees had.
The federation said it was “an unprecedented situation in the history of football, for both men and women, in Spain and worldwide”.
Players said in their letters that the “current situation” has significantly affected their “emotional state and health,” according to the association.
Spanish soccer star Alexia Putellas, in her own statement on social media on Friday, denied RFEF’s characterization that the footballers would resign.
“In no case have we resigned from the Spanish national team, as the RFEF claims in their official statement. As we said in our private email, we have maintained, maintained and will continue to maintain an undeniable commitment to the Spanish national team,” the Ballon d’Or 2021 winner.
“Therefore, in our letter to the RFEF, we ask that we not be called up for the national team until the situations that may affect our mental and personal well-being, our performance and consequently the national team’s results are resolved, leading to unwanted injuries. These are the reasons why we made this decision.”
The players were unhappy with the way injuries were handled, the atmosphere in the dressing room, Vilda’s team selection and his training sessions, Reuters reported, citing sources close to the situation.
Two-time world champion and US women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe posted an Instagram story of support for the players on Thursday night, saying, “You got a 16th place finish [player] stand in with you [US flag emoji] So many players together is so powerful. We should all listen.”
RFEF seems to stand by the coach. The association said it would “not allow players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, as making these decisions is not within their powers”.
“The federation will not allow any pressure from players when taking sporting measures. This type of maneuver is far from ideal and outside the values of football and sport and harmful,” he added.
RFEF said players would not be allowed to return to the national team unless they “accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness”.
In her statement, Putellas contradicted the RFEF’s claim that the players were demanding changes in the national team’s coaching staff.
“We have never called for the sacking of a coach as has been reported,” wrote the two-time FIFA Best Player in the World.
“We understand that our role is by no means to determine that position, but we can express constructively and honestly what we think can improve the team’s performance,” she said.
The revolt is a risky move for the players. The federation said that refusing to comply with a national team call-up was classified as a “very serious offence” and could carry penalties of two and five years’ disqualification.