Spanish women’s soccer players continue boycott; Luis Rubiales appears in court

Most of the players on Spain’s women’s World Cup-winning team said Friday that they will not return to the squad as they continue to press for change from the country’s soccer federation.

Spanish soccer has been in turmoil in the aftermath of the country’s World Cup victory last month. Luis Rubiales, Spain’s former federation president, kissed a player, Jenni Hermoso, during the post-match World Cup trophy ceremony, an incident that prompted widespread outrage. Rubiales initially refused to step down from his post, but has since resigned. The kiss is now part of a criminal investigation being carried out by Spain’s High National Court, and prosecutors have formally accused Rubiales of sexual assault and coercion. Jorge Vilda, Spain’s embattled coach at the World Cup, was also fired earlier this month.

Montse Tomé, the new national team coach, was expected to unveil the list of players for Spain’s upcoming UEFA Nations League match against top-ranked Sweden next week, a tournament in which spots for the 2024 Paris Olympics are at stake. But that announcement was delayed after 21 team members, plus 18 other female players, released a joint letter condemning the soccer federation and deeming its previous efforts to change insufficient.

Twenty-three team members, plus more than 50 other Spanish female soccer players, had resigned from the national team when Rubiales initially refused to step down. FIFA suspended him a week after the World Cup final.

“The changes that have taken place are not enough for the players to feel that they are in a safe space, where women are respected, where there is support for women’s soccer and where we can give our maximum in our performance,” said the letter, which was signed by 39 players.

The players wrote that they had been in negotiations with the federation and explained that there should be “zero tolerance” toward people with a position within the organization who had “incited, hidden or applauded attitudes that go against the dignity of women.”

The players called for several changes, including the resignation of interim president Pedro Rocha.

Later on Friday, however, the soccer federation confirmed that Rocha will continue to lead the organization in the transition before a new election, which is expected in 2024. “It is fundamental to guarantee the future of Spanish soccer to undertake transformations progressively and to recover the dignity and credibility lost after the events of the World Cup,” Rocha said in a statement.

The players’ letter was signed by, among others, Hermoso, Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas and UEFA Player of the Year Aitana Bonmati. Only two players from the World Cup-winning team did not sign the statement. Claudia Zornoza said she had decided to leave the national team before the World Cup and expressed her solidarity with her teammates in a personal statement. Sheila García noted that while she was on her colleagues’ side, for her, defending “the national colours was above whoever is managing the Federation or FIFA at a given time.”

Earlier Friday, Rubiales was summoned to appear before a judge as a defendant in the case. Following his deposition, Judge Francisco de Jorge decided to issue a restraining order against him. Rubiales was told to abstain from approaching Hermoso within a radius of 200 meters and refrain from communicating with her as long as the investigation lasts.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Hermoso’s lawyer said she maintains the kiss was not consensual “as the whole country saw on video.”

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