Spain's women players say their boycott remains, deepening crisis

  • New Spain coach selects players despite boycott
  • Players face fines if they refuse the call
  • Players seek changes to football federation after kiss

LAS ROZAS, Spain, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Spain's women's players reiterated on Monday that they would continue to boycott the national team, signalling a deepening of the crisis that started after the country's then football federation (RFEF) boss Luis Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the World Cup presentation ceremony.

After most of the Women's World Cup winners were selected for upcoming games, the players said in a joint statement they would take the "best decision" for their future and health after they would study the legal implications of being included in a squad list they had asked to be left out.

They argued the federation cannot require their presence because they alleged the call-up was not issued within the world's soccer governing body FIFA parameters in terms of timings and procedure.

The revolt by the players was triggered after Rubiales kissed Hermoso on the lips following Spain's World Cup victory. She disputed his insistence the kiss was consensual, sparking a national debate about macho culture in sport and eventually led to Rubiales's resignation.

Hermoso was not on the squad list announced by new coach Montse Tome on Monday, which included 15 of the 23 cup-winning squad plus two players - Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro - who were not called up for the finals after signing an open letter against then-coach Jorge Vilda.

"We regret once more that our federation puts us in a situation we had never desired," said the statement which was issued on the name of Spain's top women's team players but did not include signatures and was not shared by all of them on social media.

Among the ones that shared it were some of the team's most prominent players such as Alexia Putellas and Aitana Bonmati.

A source close to three players said they had been surprised by the call-up.

Should they refuse the call-up, the players could face sanctions including fines of up 30,000 euros ($32,000) and the suspension of their federation licence for two to 15 years according to Spain's Sports Act.


"If the players do not show up, the government must apply the law. I'm sorry to say so, but we must do what we have to do," the head of Spain's government national sports agency, Victor Francos, told SER radio station.

Earlier in the day Tome, who was Vilda's assistant for five years, told a press conference none of the players had asked not to be selected, adding that she had spoken to them but declining to reveal what was discussed.

When asked if she was confident all those on the list would answer the call to play, she said: "I have every confidence in the players ... I trust that the players are professionals.

"They come from being world champions, they love the profession and I know they will be here with us tomorrow."

"It's the start of a new phase, the clock is ticking," she added.


On Friday, a group of 39 players - including 21 out of the 23 in the cup-winning squad - said they wanted further changes at the football federation as Rubiales's resignation and the replacement of Vilda were not enough for them to return.

On Monday night, they said their Friday statement "clearly shows and without room for any other interpretation our firm will of not being called-up over justified reasons".

They added such position remains intact three days later and that they had not expressed any different view to RFEF officials since then.

Twenty out of the 39 were in the squad for matches against Sweden on Friday and Switzerland next Tuesday in Spain's debut in the UEFA Nations League, a competition that will determine which European teams qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

An original group of 81 players had called the boycott in the wake of the furore over Rubiales' kiss.

Tome suggested Hermoso was left out of the squad because of the intense media attention she had received in the past month.

"We stand with Jenni ... we believe that the best way to protect her is like this, but we are counting on Jenni," Tome said.

Earlier on Monday, the federation said in a statement it was convinced of the need for "structural changes" and had to clarify who was responsible for the behaviour the players had brought to light.

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Reporting by Fernando Kallas, Emma Pinedo and Joan Faus; Writing by David Latona and Joan Faus; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Charlie Devereux, Philippa Fletcher, Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar


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Madrid-raised German-American breaking news in Spain and Portugal. Previously covered markets in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with a special focus on chemical companies and regular contributions to Reuters' German-language service. Worked at Spanish news agency EFE (Madrid/Bangkok) and the European Pressphoto Agency (Frankfurt).


Joan is a Barcelona-based correspondent reporting on politics, economics and social issues, such as migration and the car industry’s green transition, and also conducting investigative pieces. With over 15 years of experience, Joan previously worked as Washington correspondent for Spain’s leading newspaper EL PA?S, closely covering the Obama and Trump administrations, electoral campaigns and major news; at Spanish newspapers Ara and Público in Madrid, and at EFE news agency in Buenos Aires and Barcelona. He is a journalism graduate from Barcelona’s Autonomous University, including an exchange program in Amsterdam and New York, and holds a business executive degree from IESE Business School