Most of Spain’s international footballers have agreed to rejoin the team, the government said on Wednesday, following a walkout by World Cup winners over a disgraced former federation president who forcibly kissed a player. .
The announcement came after hours of negotiations over players’ demands for further changes to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) following the resignation of former president Luis Rubiales.
“We have reached a series of agreements that will be drawn up and signed tomorrow” between the RFEF and the Spanish Government, Víctor Francos, Secretary of State for Sports, told the press, adding that two of the 23 players called up do not wish to continue with the squad. .
A total of 19 players in new coach Montse Tome’s squad were on strike over changes they wanted to make to the RFEF, leading to concerns they would not play in upcoming Nations League matches.
In the hours before the deal was announced, the internationals selected by Tome gathered to train despite declaring themselves unavailable, with some expressing fear of facing sanctions if they refused to play.
“We have been forced to come. But if they want to sanction us, then we have to come,” said Barcelona defender Mapi León.
When a journalist asked her upon her arrival at training if she was happy to be included in the squad, goalkeeper Misa Rodríguez responded “no.”
Alexia Putellas, two-time Ballon d’Or winner, was asked at the Barcelona airport how she felt. “Well,” the Barça player responded.
The striking players issued a statement on Monday in which they reiterated their desire not to be called up, although they acknowledged the possible legal consequences that could force them to attend.
They had faced possible fines of between 3,000 and 30,000 euros ($3,200 and $32,100), while they could also have lost their gaming licenses for up to five years.
Secretary of State for Sports Francos, who is also president of the Higher Sports Council (CSD), said that the two women who decided not to play would not face sanctions.
– Outrage –
The scandal broke moments after Spain won the World Cup on August 20, when then-president Rubiales forcibly kissed midfielder Jenni Hermoso on the lips as the team received the trophy.
He eventually resigned three weeks after the incident and controversial coach Jorge Vilda was sacked, but many players demanded wider improvements and structural changes.
Hermoso was not called up to “protect her,” new coach Tomé, Vilda’s former assistant, said on Monday.
That decision also proved controversial.
“Protect me from what? And from whom?” Hermoso posted on X on Tuesday.
He accused the RFEF of trying to “intimidate and threaten” the world champions by summoning them against their will for the next matches.
Francos initially said he would have to apply the country’s sports law against any player who overruled the decision.
However, he then did a U-turn on those comments and met with players on Tuesday night to ask them to play and offer government help.
“You are going (to play) and we are committed so that what you are asking for can be possible,” Francos told Spanish public television.
“If a player is not comfortable and does not want to play, I think the most normal thing is that they are not called up and someone else is called up,” he added.
Spain will face Sweden on September 22 and Switzerland on September 26 in the Nations League.
The eventual Nations League finalists will qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games.
– ‘We support them’ –
The Spanish players received support from their Swedish counterparts.
“They need to feel the support around them, that other countries support them in the decisions they make,” said Swedish midfielder Filippa Angeldahl.
“If they feel they have to boycott to make something happen, we clearly support them.”
Goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl wrote in X: “I don’t want to encourage people to pursue a football dream if the game doesn’t protect them while they do it.”
Spain are scheduled to fly to Sweden on Thursday morning before their Friday match in Gothenburg.
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