Spain Women head coach coach Jorge Vilda is facing mounting pressure to be sacked after 15 players threatened to go on strike; players are unhappy with the management of injuries, the atmosphere in the locker room, Vilda's team selection and his training sessions
Friday 23 September 2022 20:40, UK
The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) is standing by women's head coach Jorge Vilda after 15 players emailed them to say they would resign from the national team if he continued to take charge.
The emails, which were identical according to the RFEF, said that playing under Vilda was affecting their mental health.
But a strongly-worded statement said the players concerned had committed "a very serious infraction" by refusing to play that could lead to a suspension of up to five years from the national team.
The RFEF also demanded apologies from those players involved if they want to represent Spain again, and stated they would use lower age-group players to bolster their squad in the meantime.
Local media reported the Spanish women's team were in chaos last month, with players on the verge of a mutiny if the federation did not relieve Vilda of his duties.
"The RFEF can confirm that, throughout today, we received 15 emails from 15 players of the women's senior football team... in which they state that the current situation affects 'significantly' their emotional state and their health and that, 'as long as it is not reversed', they resign from the Spanish national team," the Spanish FA said in a statement on Thursday.
"The RFEF is not going to allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers."
The RFEF said that refusing to honour a call-up for a national team was classified as a "very serious infraction and can carry sanctions of between two and five years of disqualification".
According to sources close to the situation, the players are unhappy with the management of injuries, the atmosphere in the locker room, Vilda's team selection and his training sessions.
The RFEF, which did not disclose the identities of the 15 players, said it fully supported the coach and that the players will only return to the team if they "recognise their mistake and ask for forgiveness".
Spanish publication MARCA run the headline 'the blackmail is unacceptable', referring to the response of the RFEF to the email signed off by the 15 players to president Luis Rubiales.
The report claims that Barcelona star and neither reigning Ballon d'Or holder Alexia Putellas nor any of the Real Madrid players are among those to have threatened to boycott the national team.
MARCA list the 15 players as follows: Ainhoa Vicente (Atletico Madrid) Lola Gallardo (Atletico Madrid) Sandra Paños (Barcelona) Mapi León (Barcelona) Claudia Pina (Barcelona) Aitana Bonmatí (Barcelona) Mariona Caldentey (Barcelona) Patri Guijarro (Barcelona), Andrea Pereira (Club America) Leila Ouahabi (Man City) Laia Alexandri (Man City) Lucia García (Man Utd) Ona Batlle (Man Utd) Amaiur Sarriegui (Sociedad) Nerea Eizagirre (Sociedad).
Meanwhile, daily newspaper AS simply lead with the headline, 'Rebellion!' The report confirms that Putellas is not among those on strike, alongside Jenni Hermoso and Irene Paredes.
Spanish football expert Fernando Kallas told Sky Sports:
"It's not a shock as it's something which has been boiling away for the last two or three months. The players were on the verge of mutiny in late August. The impression that we have is that their feelings haven't cooled down.
"The players claim that the coach has created a toxic culture that is affecting their performance and mental health. I think this story is unprecedented in the history of football. I don't remember a national team at such a high level where almost every player is just stepping down from the team.
"Not only that, but then the Federation has taken the side of the coach and is threatening the players with the Spanish sports law which states they're obligated to go with the national team - if not, you're going to be suspended from professional sports.
"It's just crazy. It's not a shock, but people here don't understand. The players aren't talking about it. They're leaking information but they're not talking publicly. We still don't know for certain what's going on."
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes told Sky Sports: "I hope that there's some common ground and some good listening in both directions because ultimately that team is amazing and deserves to be performing at the highest level. I hope they sort through those differences.
"I hope there's sensible conversations, you have to have dialogue to resolve differences and that's something that between them they have to try and create."