BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Spanish football is in turmoil after 15 players from the women’s national team have been withdrawn from the squad, saying their coach has affected their “emotional state” and their health “significantly”.
At the end of Thursday, the association announced that the 15 players had sent identical letters by email, citing coach Jorge Vilda as the reason for the problems.
On Friday, the players’ email was published by local media. The federation confirmed to The Associated Press that the email was genuine and that the names of the 15 players, including Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, had not been listed.
The email did not explicitly ask to fire Vilda. It read: “The general situation in the Spanish national team, caused by recent events, events of which (the federation) is aware, has a great influence on my emotional state and therefore also on my health.”
“As a result, I do not currently consider myself available to our national team and therefore ask not to be called up until this situation changes.”
The email adds the player’s “complete commitment to the team past, present and future.”
The players list includes the team’s third captain, Patri Guijarro, goalkeeper Sandra Paños and attacking midfielder Aitana Bonmatí.
Earlier this month, Guijarro appeared at a press conference alongside the team’s first captain, Irene Paredes, and striker Jennifer Hermoso to explain their issues with Vilda. Neither Paredes nor Hermoso are among the 15 who have asked to leave the team.
At that press conference, Paredes said the players had never asked for Vilda to resign, but she said they were not happy with the results of the team reaching the quarter-finals of the European Championship in July, losing to eventual champions England 2. -1 .
“It’s a complicated moment,” Paredes said. “We are an ambitious team and we want to get better and win. We believe that various internal aspects (of the team) should improve.”
Guijarro then said: “There is a general dissatisfaction among the team with what we experienced at the end of the Eurocup. We thought we had a group that could win titles. That is how we think and feel. After the Eurocup, the group sent that message to our coach.”
Vilda also spoke about the split with the team during the European Championship, which was played in England.
“The atmosphere in the team has always been good,” said Vilda. “In the first 15 days of the Europcup (camp) the atmosphere was positive. Then the games started and something changed. We were in a football paradise and I hope we can come back there in the future. We have a team with good players and we are just one step away from being a great team.”
At that press conference, none of the players mentioned their emotional health. That has led to speculation in Spanish media that there may be more to the decision than just disappointing results.
Ana Álvarez, head of women’s football at the Spanish Football Federation, defended Vilda’s professionalism.
While she said she does not question the players’ emotional distress, Álvarez said there were no reports of verbal or sexist abuse comparable to that of former players against Vilda’s predecessor, Ignacio Quereda, who replaced Vilda in 2015.
Quereda resigned after his players publicly demanded that the federation get rid of him over what they called his poor preparation for the 2015 World Cup. Former players later accused him of using sexist and homophobic language to psychologically abuse them during his nearly three decades in charge.
“Nothing like this has ever happened (under Vilda),” Álvarez told Cadena SER radio late Thursday. “We are all professionals and nothing has ever affected that. Nothing happened that you might think. That would be very serious.”
The Spanish Football Association has said the players will not be allowed to return until they have “asked for forgiveness”.
Spain is scheduled for friendlies against Sweden on October 7 and the United States on October 11. It is expected that Vilda will announce his roster for those matches next week.
Álvarez said the federation will call on younger and less experienced players to complete the roster if necessary.
“The federation comes first,” she said.
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