Spain’s Soccer Federation Has Once Again Barfed Into Its Own Pants
9:42 AM EDT on September 19, 2023
When Jorge Vilda was tossed from his position as manager of the Spanish women's national team on Sept. 5, it did not end a strike initiated by 39 players who said they would refuse to play for the national team until the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) underwent significant structural changes. When Luis Rubiales—the pig-headed sicko whose ridiculous and insulting behavior in the immediate aftermath of Spain's World Cup victory initiated this latest strike—was ejected from his position as president of the federation a few days later, the strike still did not end. If you're curious as to why dozens of Spanish players would want to continue withholding their labor from the RFEF even after their two most public antagonists were fired, you need only look at the foolish, embarrassing way the RFEF has handled itself over the last few days.
After Vilda was fired, the RFEF installed one of his longtime assistants, Montse Tomé, as first-team manager. The federation insinuated that Tomé was well-liked by the striking players and would be able to bring everyone back into the fold, but it has since become pretty clear that such is not the case. Tomé and the federation started acting like clowns almost immediately: Last Friday, Tomé was scheduled to hold a press conference to announce her squad for a pair of international fixtures the following week (Spain is scheduled to play two Women's Nations League matches on Sept. 22 and Sept. 26). That press conference was called off 20 minutes before it was set to begin. The RFEF then released a statement urging the striking players to answer any call-up for international duty and insisting that structural changes would be made so long as they cooperated. Tomé eventually spoke to the press on Monday, claiming that she had spoken to all of the players and had not been told by any of them that they didn't want to be called up. Tomé named a squad of 23 players, 21 of them participants in the most recent, and ongoing, strike:
Almost immediately, it became clear that Tomé had not been truthful about her open line of communication with the players. A report from Relevo said that the players who had been called up on Monday, who would need to report to the national team on Tuesday, were not prepared for their selection and only found out about it when the team was announced on social media. Not long after Tomé's press conference, the players released a statement expressing dismay at their selection and suggesting that the RFEF had failed to comply with FIFA regulations by announcing the squad so close to the deadline for reporting to camp. Tomé also answered a question about why Jenni Hermoso, the player whom Rubiales planted an unwanted kiss on after the World Cup final, had not been named to the squad. Tomé said she was excluded from the team "as a way to protect her." This led to Hermoso releasing a statement of her own, in which she reiterated how little confidence and faith she and her teammates have in the RFEF. Her statement read:
Protect me from what?
Let's be clear: a claim was made today stating that the environment within the federation would be safe for my colleagues to rejoin yet at the same press conference it was announced that they were not calling me as a means to protect me.
Protect me from what? And from whom?
We have been searching for weeks—months, even—for protection from the RFEF that never came. The people who now ask us to trust them are the same ones who today disclosed the list of players who have asked NOT to be called up.
The players are certain that this is yet another strategy of division and manipulation to intimidate and threaten us with legal repercussions and economic sanctions. It is yet more irrefutable proof that shows that even today, nothing has changed.
I want to once again show my full support to my colleagues who have been caught by surprise and forced to react to another unfortunate situation caused by the people who conitnue to make decisions within the REFEF.
This is why we are fighting and why we are doing it in this way.
The players who have been called up now find themselves in, to say the least, an unenviable situation. If they do not report to the team, they could be fined significant amounts of money and have their playing licenses revoked, which could prevent them playing for their club teams. Victor Francos, the president of the Spanish government’s High Council of Sport, made it clear in an interview on Monday that such sanctions are on the table. "I hope that the call has been agreed upon with them. If they don't show up, we will have to apply the law," he said. "I would never want to do what I would have to do at that moment. The Sports Law says what it says."
Because seemingly everyone involved in the administration of Spanish international sports is just as buffoonish as they are malicious, Francos has already started trying to walk back those comments while pinning the current mess on Tomé. Francos went on Spanish TV today and admitted that nobody had actually spoken to the players in advance of their call-ups. "We have not spoken to any player until what happened has happened," he said. "Yesterday we made a fool of ourselves as a country." Francos went on to say that he has spoken to players since the squad announcement, and wants to meet with them today in Valencia, where they are supposed to report for international duty, to try and smooth things over.
Where things currently stand is unclear. Francos is at the hotel where players are supposed to report, and so is Tomé. A few players have started to show up as well. Real Madrid keeper Misa Rodriguez was asked while walking into the hotel if she was happy with Tomé's squad list, to which she replied, "No."
Another group of players, including World Cup hero Olga Carmona, were spotted leaving their hotel in Madrid, where the team was originally supposed to convene, to head to Valencia, and they did not look thrilled to be on the move.
Hats off to the RFEF, which got rid of the disgusting sex creep who was the president of the federation and the dim-witted nepotism case who was the manager of the women's national team, and still has managed to maintain its status as the most embarrassing sports federation in the world.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said that the Spanish players were reporting to the national team in Madrid. They originally were meant to convene in Madrid, but were later rerouted to Valencia.