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What to know about the Real Federación Española de Fútbol drama

Though Spain’s national soccer team came away as the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup (FWWC) Champions, their victory was not nearly as sweet as they had hoped. 

 

Leading up to the 2023 FWWC, significant drama had already plagued Spain’s team. However, the drama only continued to snowball even after they secured the World Cup victory. 

 

The tensions among the Spanish club date back to September of 2022. After suffering a brutal loss that eliminated the Spanish team from the European Championships, 15 players on the team’s roster sent an email expressing their intentions to permanently withdraw themselves from the roster. This email was primarily fueled by the players’ distaste for Coach Jorge Vilda. The email included information about how Vilda’s actions and coaching style were negatively impacting the players’ mental wellbeing and overall health. The root cause of the email pertained to a rule that Vilda instated for the team back in 2019, prohibiting the players to keep their hotel rooms unlocked until midnight while on the road for international games. This seriously impacted players and the lack of safety that they were facing. Not only were players disappointed with Vilda’s apparent lack of respect, but also with his poor leadership skills. Players expressed their disappointment in how he led the team and how his actions subsequently led to their decisions to withdraw from the team. 

 

This powerful email was sent from essentially the core of Spain’s national soccer team. With several key players involved in this email, one would think that the organization would take a step back to consider what would be best for the players. Despite this, the governing body of Spain’s national soccer teams, The Royal Spanish Football Federation (Spanish: Real Federación Española de Fútbol; RFEF), elected to keep Vilda as the head coach. By doing so, the RFEF overlooked the wellbeing of its players and only considered minute details that do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Winning is not everything when the safety of the athletes is being jeopardized. 

 

With this email, it seemed as though Spain had lost their shot at winning the 2023 FWWC. Rebuilding a team’s core is a lengthy process that requires significant effort and time from all involved. Vilda was able to string together a new roster that showed promise as the 2023 FWWC quickly approached. The team was composed of many new players to the national team with only a few veteran players, one of which was Jennifer Hermoso.

 

To the world’s surprise, Spain came away from the 2023 FWWC having won the entire thing. The final match was against England on Aug. 20 where Spain won 1-0. 

 

To think that this story deescalates from here is a mistake. There were two prominent occurrences of inappropriate behavior from head coach Jorge Vilda as well as RFEF chief Luis Rubiales during and after the World Cup Final. 

 

The first inappropriate gesture was after Olga Carmona scored the only game of the match. In celebrating the game-winning goal, Vilda was seen holding his hand over a female staff member’s chest after an embrace. This was a purposeful and inappropriate gesture on Vilda’s part that should not be overlooked. Male coaches especially need to be held accountable for their actions. 

 

Following the match, during the medal ceremony, RFEF president Luis Rubiales was seen giving Hermoso a kiss on the lips after she received her medal. Based on reports, Hermoso says that this kiss was non consensual and she did not want any part of it. In contrast, the RFEF is doing everything in its power to protect Rubiales, saying that all of Hermoso’s allegations are lies. At this point in time, the RFEF is considering legal action. 

 

Since this occurrence many professional soccer players, including Alex Morgan and Marta Vieira da Silva, have spoken out and provided their support for Hermoso. 

 

As this is an actively developing story, it will be interesting to see what the end result will be. 

 

Hermoso was one of the veteran players that elected to stick with the RFEF even through the hardships that occurred in 2022. 

 

No matter if this situation involved sexual abuse or not, my hope is that all who were involved are held accountable for their actions. As the RFEF seems quite male-centric, there are serious changes that need to be implemented for the wellbeing of the female athletes and staff. There should be no questions when it comes to the safety of the athletes and staff. This story should also act as a guide for what not to do for male coaches. Women deserve respect, especially when they are the best at their sport. I am aware that culture plays a role in how some teams physically interact with each other, but when athletes begin voicing their concerns a serious issue is at hand.

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