Fifteen of Spain’s top women’s soccer players resigned from the Spanish national team on Thursday, and alleged in emails that the situation around the team had “significantly” affected their “emotional state” and “health,” Spain’s soccer federation, the RFEF, said in a statement.
The resignations come weeks after a few Spanish stars reportedly urged head coach Jorge Vilda to step down, and then asked RFEF president Luis Rubiales to fire Vilda. Both men reportedly refused.
On Thursday, the RFEF said that the larger group of players sent 15 identically worded emails to the federation, in which they wrote that they would no longer play for the national team until the situation is “reversed.”
The RFEF, though, said it would stand firm. It said in its news release that it would “not allow the players to question the continuity” of Vilda and his staff, and would not accede to “any type of pressure.”
It called the resignations a “very serious infraction” that could disqualify the players from national team selection for 2-5 years.
Among the players who have reportedly resigned are several core members of the FC Barcelona squad that went undefeated in Spain’s Primera División Femenina last season, and several core members of the Spain squad that entered Euro 2022 as a favorite.
A month after La Roja, as the team is known, succumbed to England in the Euro quarterfinals, the players reportedly met and decided, with support from most but not all of them, to push for Vilda’s departure.
Vilda had ascended to the job in 2015 after a separate player revolt ousted former coach Ignacio Quereda — who’d cultivated an abusive culture of fear and intimidation, yet was retained by the RFEF until players spoke up.
Initial reports on the revolt against Vilda last month suggested that the players’ reasoning was rooted in Vilda’s soccer tactics, decisions and results. In Thursday’s emails, though, the players mentioned their “emotional state,” according to the RFEF. (The players have not yet publicly explained their resignations.)
The national team’s next two games are scheduled for Oct. 7 and 11, two friendlies on home soil against Sweden and the United States. They are two early-stage tuneups for next summer’s Women’s World Cup, for which Spain has qualified.
The RFEF said in its Thursday statement that “the players who have submitted their resignation will only return to the national team in the future if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”