Spain on the brink of glory despite player mutiny and accusations of bullying
Spain will face England in Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final less than a year after 15 players staged a mutiny over their treatment.
The row, which broke out in September last year, threatened to derail coach Jorge Vilda’s mission before an uneasy peace was brokered as the tournament neared.
Here, Metro.co.uk provides background on what happened and the repercussions.
What is Vilda’s background?
The 42-year-old is steeped in football having grown up watching is father Angel – currently head of women’s football at the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) – working as a physical trainer for among others, Luis Aragones at Atletico Madrid, Johan Cruyff at Barcelona and Jupp Heynckes at Real Madrid.
Having worked his way up through the age groups, he was appointed manager in 2015 following predecessor Ignacio Quereda’s departure amid player unrest.
When did news of the row emerge?
The RFEF – or the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol – released a statement on September 22 last year revealing that 15 players had submitted identical emails withdrawing their services if ‘significant’ concerns over their ’emotional state’ and ‘health’ were not addressed.
Who were the players?
‘Las 15’, as they became known, were Patri Guijarro, Aitana Bonmati, Mapi Leon, Mariona Caldentey, Sandra Panos, Claudia Pina, Lola Gallardo, Ainhoa Moraza, Nerea Eizagirre, Amaiur Sarriegi, Lucia Garcia, Ona Batlle, Leila Ouahabi, Laia Aleixandri and Andrea Pereira.
At the time, six of them played their club football at Barcelona, two each at Manchester City, Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad and one at Club America.
Perhaps significantly, no Real Madrid players joined them. The protesters were supported publicly by skipper Irene Paredes, Jennifer Hermoso and Alexia Putellas, although the trio did not send the email.
What were their complaints?
Details remain vague, but reports since based on anonymous briefings have suggested members of the squad were unhappy in the wake of their Euro 2022 quarter-final exit at the hands of England.
Further reports have claimed misgivings over travel and accommodation arrangements, but also complaints over the strictness of Vilda’s regime, including allegations that players were ordered to keep the doors to their hotel rooms open until midnight and had their bags searched if they went shopping during training camps.
What was the RFEF’s response?
Uncompromising to say the least. Acknowledging receipt of the emails, the Federation said deciding the make-up of the coaching staff was not within the players’ powers, although Paredes later insisted they had not called for Vilda’s head.
The RFEF statement continued: ‘The national team needs players committed to the project, defending our colours and proud to wear the Spain shirt. The footballers who have submitted their resignation will only return to the discipline of the national team in the future if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.’
How has the issue been resolved?
If an accommodation has been reached, it appears to be a delicate one. Only three members of Las 15 – Bonmati, Caldentey and Batlle – as well as Putellas, Paredes and Hermoso, were included in Vilda’s squad for the finals and Barcelona’s Leon in particular has been outspoken in her resistance.
Vilda, who was not applauded by a significant number of his players when introduced at his squad announcement, revealed his ‘hurt’ at the revolt, but called for a renewed united front and there have been suggestions from within the camp of a more relaxed atmosphere.
However, although his team has gelled on the pitch, the coach has found himself largely on the periphery during post-match celebrations.
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