Fifteen of Spain’s best women footballers have sent a letter asking not to be called up for the national team, saying the training methods of their head coach are harming their emotional states and health.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said in a statement Thursday that it received 15 emails from 15 players asking not to be selected and referred to the players having an issue with the national team coach Jorge Vilda and his staff.
The federation said it was “an unprecedented situation in the history of football, both male and female, in Spain and worldwide.”
Players said in their letters that the “current situation” had significantly affected their “emotional state and health,” according to the federation.
Spanish football star Alexia Putellas disputed RFEF’s characterization that the footballers were resigning, in her own statement on social media Friday.
“In no case did we resign from the Spanish national team, like the RFEF claims in their official statement. Like we said in our private email, we’ve maintained, continue to maintain and will continue to maintain an unquestionable commitment to the Spanish national team,” the 2021 Ballon d’Or winner.
“That is why we request in our letter to the RFEF not to be called up to the national team until it remedies the situations that affect our mental and personal wellbeing, our performance, and in consequence, the results of the of the national team that could lead to undesirable injuries. These are the reasons why we’ve made this decision.”
The players had been unhappy with the management of injuries, the atmosphere in the locker room, Vilda’s team selection and his training sessions, Reuters reported, citing sources close to the situation.
Two-time World Cup winner and US Women’s National Team star Megan Rapinoe posted an Instagram story on Thursday night supporting the players, saying, “You got a 16th [player] standing with you in [US flag emoji] This many players together like this is so powerful. We should all listen.”
RFEF appears to be standing by the coach. The federation said it will not “allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers.”
“The federation will not admit any type of pressure from any player when adopting sports measures. These types of maneuvers are far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport and are harmful,” it added.
RFEF said that the players would not be allowed to return to the national team unless they “accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”
In her statement, Putellas disagreed with the RFEF’s assertion that the players were calling for changes in the national team coaching staff.
“We’ve never asked for the dismissal of a coach as has been reported,” the two-time Best FIFA Women’s Player award winner wrote.
“We understand that our job is not in any case to decide that position, but we can express, constructively and with honesty, what we believe can better the performance of the team,” she said.
The revolt is a high risk move for the players. The federation said that refusing to honor a call-up for a national team was classified as a “very serious infraction and can carry sanctions of two and five years of disqualification.”