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19 September 2023

Spain World Cup winners report for national duty as RFEF dispute rumbles on

19 September 2023

A number of Spain’s World Cup-winning stars reluctantly reported for national team duty on Tuesday amid concerns they could face sanctions for refusing to be called up.

Fifteen of the squad from this summer’s tournament were named in Montse Tome’s squad on Monday for Nations League encounters against Sweden and Switzerland, despite 21 of the 23-player contingent stating on Friday they would not play for their country again until the football federation (RFEF) had undergone major restructuring.

The group insisted the resignation of Luis Rubiales was “not enough” to prompt their return. He finally quit as RFEF president on September 10 following the scandal surrounding his kiss on the lips of Spain player Jenni Hermoso after the final in Sydney in August, which she insists was not consensual.

Under Spanish sports law “unjustified lack of attendance” for national team duty is considered a serious infraction which can result in fines or even a suspension, and amid the uncertainty players committed to the boycott gathered on Tuesday.

A group of Madrid-based stars met at a hotel in the Spanish capital before travelling on to a training base near Valencia. Among them was goalkeeper Misa Rodriguez, who answered “no” when asked by reporters if she was happy to be part of Tome’s squad.

Another group of Barcelona players, including 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, were photographed and interviewed as they arrived at El Prat airport in the Catalan city for a flight to the Valencia training camp.

The PA news agency understands world players’ union FIFPRO is among the bodies providing legal advice and other support to the group, although that support is being led by domestic player unions.

Hermoso, who Tome said had not been called up for the Nations League matches for her own protection, issued a statement early on Tuesday accusing the RFEF of “intimidation” and making threats towards the player group.

“We have spent weeks, months, searching for protection from inside the RFEF that never came,” she posted on social media.

“The same people who ask us to trust them are those who today announced a squad with players who asked NOT to be called up.

“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.”

Tome said Spain were still “counting on” Hermoso, despite her omission.

“We stand with Jenni,” she told a press conference on Monday.

“We believe that the best way to protect her is like this, but we are counting on Jenni.

“It’s the start of a new phase, the clock is ticking. There is nothing behind us and we really want to connect with these players.”

Rachel Daly, part of the England team beaten by Spain in the World Cup final, gave her thoughts on the situation on Tuesday as she told a press conference: “I think it’s extremely unfortunate that the incident that happened with Jenni Hermoso is fully overshadowing the fact they won the World Cup.

“You see it on a day-to-day basis in the media, and everyone’s talking about that rather than how exceptional they played during the World Cup and in the final.

“We as players and everyone in the female game stands with them, the Spanish players and in particular Jenni Hermoso. Hopefully it all gets resolved in the right way and we’re all standing with them in solidarity.

“It (the situation) just shows how far we’ve got to go in women’s football in the world. It’s a really, really sad time to watch players, colleagues go through things like that. It’s awful.

“I think every female player in the whole world stands with the Spanish team. Hopefully it gets resolved soon and we don’t have to go through experiences like this any more.”

Regarding the response Rodriguez had given, Daly added: “It’s awful to hear that because…it’s the biggest honour you can possibly have in the women’s game to play for your country. So it’s heartbreaking to hear that somebody wouldn’t want to be there.”

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