Mutiny in the Spain team when 15 footballers refuse to play in a bid to remove the head coach

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The Spanish women’s team entered into crisis on Thursday night when 15 players declared themselves unavailable for selection while Jorge Vilda continues as head coach.

Each of the players has written to the Spanish Federation (RFEF) insisting that the situation with the coach, whom they had not been able to discharge at the end of August, has affected their health and mood and that they have no intention of go back until a solution is found.

Related: Spain says goodbye to Euro 2022 feeling angry, frustrated and robbed

Six Barcelona players were among those who sent emails, as were Manchester United players Ona Batlle and Lucía García, and Manchester City players Laia Aleixandri and Leila Ouahabi. Captain Irene Paredes and Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas were not among them, but injury meant the latter was no longer available for the upcoming matches in October.

The Federation responded with a strong statement calling this “unprecedented in the history of football”, a situation that “goes beyond sport to be a matter of dignity”, and insisting that it will not give in to pressure. The Federation noted that refusing to play for the national team could result in bans of between two and five years, but stated that it would simply not call up any of the players involved until they “admit their mistake and apologise”. The Federation will place youth players if necessary.

The letters come three weeks after a riot in which members of the Spanish team expressed their discontent with Vilda to President Luis Rubiales. They then also confronted Vilda, but he refused to give up. The players appeared together at a press conference – supported by Putellas on social networks – in which Paredes insisted that “they had not asked for his dismissal” but admitted that “the captains, on behalf of the group, communicate what we feel” . He said that they had been assured that there would be changes.

Spain played against Ukraine on September 6. On Friday, emails arrived from Patri Guijarro, Mapi León, Aitana Bonmatí, Mariona Caldentey, Sandra Paños, Andrea Pereira and Clàudia Pina from Barcelona, ​​​​in addition to Batlle, Aleixandri, Ouahabi, Ainhoa ​​​​Vicente, Lucía García, Lola Gallardo, Amaiur Sarriegi and Nerea Eizagirre. None of the Real Madrid players sent emails.

Ona Batlle, who plays her club soccer for Manchester United, is trying to remove Jorge Vilda as head touche Photograph: Oscar J. Barroso/Shutterstock

The Federation refused to give in to such pressure, and the belligerent tone and language used in its response underlined that reconciliation will be extremely difficult. A statement issued Thursday night confirmed that they had received 15 letters, which he said were all “coincidentally written in the same way.”

“The RFEF will not allow the players to question the coach’s continuity, since making those decisions is not part of his role,” the statement promised. “The Federation will not accept any type of pressure exerted by any player when making sporting decisions. This type of intrigue does not fit the values ​​of football or sport and is harmful.

Related: Euro 2022 Women’s Team Guide #8: Spain

“According to Spanish law, not attending the national team’s call is classed as a serious offense and can lead to suspensions of between two and five years. [But] The RFEF, faced with the behavior of these players, wants to make it clear that it will not take things to that extreme or put pressure on the players. He simply will not summon those players who do not wish to wear the Spanish shirt.

“The RFEF will only summon committed players, even if that means playing with homegrown players. The national team needs players committed to the project and the defense of our colors and proud to wear the Spain shirt. Players who have submitted their resignation will only return in the future if they admit their mistake and apologize.”

Spain will play Sweden in Córdoba on October 7. With Vilda, Spain reached the quarterfinals of Euro 2022, where they lost in extra time to England.

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