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Spain squad agree to play after negotiations

September 20, 2023

The Spanish women's football team have ended their boycott after an agreement to improve conditions and make structural change was finally reached. However, new head coach Montserrat Tome is reportedly set to be fired.

Spanish players stand in a circle looking at a ball as they practise
Image: Alberto Saiz/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Spanish squad called up by new head coach Montserrat Tome have agreed to play in their two upcoming Nations League matches, as the crisis engulfing Spanish football continues to spiral.

The footballers had previously announced they would boycott playing for the national team after Spain's former soccer federation president Luis Rubiales held Jenni Hermoso's head with both hands and kissed her on the lips during the medal ceremony that followed Spain's win over England in the final of the Women's World Cup in Australia on August 20.

However, it has been reported that Tome, who was only hired on September 8 to replace Jorge Vilda, will be fired following the matches against Sweden on September 22 in Gothenburg and against Switzerland in Cordoba on September 26.

Spanish sources suggest there has been a breakdown in trust between the players and Tome, over the head coach's decision to call-up the players who had specifically said they would not return to national team.

Under Spain's Sport Act, players can be fined or even have their federation licences suspended for refusing a call-up. The threat of sanctions, despite the ongoing boycott, saw the players, politician Víctor Francos - who is the President for the Supreme Council for Sport of Spain (CSD) - and Amanda Gutierrez from labor union FUTPRO convene in Oliva earlier this week.

Spain’s ex-football boss in court over World Cup kiss

Government and players union step in

Following hours of discussions, Francos said a principle of agreement to begin making the structural changes requested by the players within the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) had been reached and 21 of the 23 players called up had agreed to play.

Mapi Leon and Patri Guijjaro, who were also not a part of the World Cup squad, were said not to be in the correct frame of mind to remain with the squad. A monitoring commission of the commitments to be adopted was also agreed to be created - made up of members of the RFEF, the CSD and player representatives.

Details on the full set of commitments were still to be confirmed outside of the meeting, although it was announced that General Secretary Andreu Camps had been fired and in the name of equality 'women' would be dropped from the team name and they would be henceforth known just as the 'Spanish Football Team' in line with the men's side.

Francos had a positive outlook following the initial meeting, saying: "I'm honest: I think the situation is at a difficult time, but I think it's good news to say that the women's national team will play both games with guarantees."

Meanwhile, Gutierrez added: "It is the beginning of a possibility of necessary change in the RFEF and for future generations."

'The reality is different for us'

Despite the reassurances, Leon and Guijjaro admitted they were unable to remain with the team having chosen to not make themselves available for selection since September 2022.

The Barcelona pair missed the World Cup as their requests for structural changes were ignored for almost a year and although the fallout since Spain's victory in the tournament has shifted the landscape, both players felt the call-up to the national team remained inappropriate. 

"The reality is that the situation is different for me and Patri than the rest of our teammates," Leon explained. "It's not been the right way for us to return. We're not in a place to be told: 'Now you're coming back...' It's a process. Changes are happening but they have not been enacted yet."

"But little by little they are happening and we are happy because the intentions are good, but we need time. We support our teammates, as we have done until now from a distance."

Guijjaro added: "They are working on changes and, of course, we stand with our teammates. It's true that it's a different situation for us. It's tough and quite difficult. Being here, after the way everything has happened, mentally we were not ready to stay."

Hermoso left out of squad 'for her protection'

Jennifer Hermoso looks towards the ground
Hermoso put out a statement on social media over the decision to call-up her previously striking teammatesImage: Noe Llamas/ZUMAPRESS/picture alliance

The squad remain without Hermoso though after she was not selected for "her own protection", according to Tome. 

Hermoso then accused the Spanish football federation of trying to "intimidate and threaten" players of the national team who recently won the World Cup.

In a statement published on social media, the 33-year-old striker reacted to the federation calling up players who at the time were still boycotting the women's team.

39 players, including 21 members of the squad that won the World Cup last month, had said they would not return to the national team as they did not yet "feel in a safe space," demanding further changes within the federation.

But Tome called up many of them a few days later, forcing the players to reaffirm their boycott the same day. Hermoso said the federation was trying to put pressure on the players.

"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," she had written.

Edited by: Matt Pearson