Sunday, 03 Dec, 2023


Boycotting Spain players join up with squad

Sports Desk |
Update: 2023-09-20 09:54:50
Boycotting Spain players join up with squad [Photo Collected]

Spain players who had said they are boycotting the national team have turned up for international duty.

Players launched the boycott after the Spanish Football Federation's former president Luis Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermoso after the Women's World Cup final last month.

However, there are still doubts over whether the players will play in forthcoming Nations League games.

Spain play Sweden on Friday then face Switzerland on Tuesday.

Six players living in Madrid arrived at a hotel in the capital city before leaving to join up with the rest of the team in Valencia, where they will train before heading to Sweden on Thursday.

The six include five players from Real Madrid - Olga Carmona, who scored the winning goal in the World Cup final win over England, Misa Rodriguez, Oihane Hernandez, Teresa Abelleira and Athenea del Castillo, and Atletico Madrid forward Eva Navarro.

Bar Del Castillo, the players have all said they support the boycott.

Asked by a reporter if she was happy to be in the squad, goalkeeper Rodriguez replied "no" as she arrived at the hotel.

A number of Barcelona-based players - including two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas - have also travelled to the camp near Valencia.

When asked by reporters at Barcelona airport how she felt about the situation, Putellas replied: "Well, bad."

Barcelona team-mate Mapi Leon also expressed disquiet when asked by reporters, saying: "We have to talk long and hard about if we are coming to a safe place or not when we have been forced to come.

"We have been forced to come. But if they want to sanction us [for staying away], then we have to come."

Spanish journalist Guillem Balague says the players have reported to the camp because of the legal repercussions of not turning up which include being banned from the national side and fines.

The players are expected to meet with the federation and government to continue negotiations having previously called for changes to the federation.

Victor Francos, the head of the Spanish government's national sports agency, told SER radio station if the players did not show up "the government must apply the law".

The Spanish government also wants to see their newly crowned world champions qualify for next year's Olympic Games, with the two finalists from the inaugural women's Nations League qualifying for Paris 2024.

"We want there to be changes, for them to be quick, for the confidence of the players to be restored and, most importantly, what we want is to see them play and see them win," government spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez said on Tuesday.

Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson said the potential boycott had not affected his side's preparations for Friday's Group A4 match.

"Naturally, we'd like to have that information, but it isn't anything that I need for this training session or for tomorrow," he said.

'Players will have avoided sanctions' - analysis
Spanish football journalist Ernest Macia told BBC Radio 5 Live that all of the players called up to Tome's Nations League squad were expected to arrive in Valencia by the end of Tuesday.

"The Spanish federation issued train tickets this morning, tourist class, for Barcelona players to go there [Valencia]," Macia said.

"The lawyers and the Spanish authorities have said 'If you don't go there, we would suspend you for two years without being able to play football for Barcelona or with Madrid, or whatever'. So the players have to go."

The players will have avoided sanctions by reporting for international duty, says Macia, but it remains uncertain whether they will play against Sweden on Friday.

Macia added that a "middle ground" agreement between the players and the federation could be to "find another coach in the next 24 hours".

"[An agreement might be] to try and find a new national team coach and make some more changes in the weeks to come, because the players are not happy with the coach Montse Tome because they feel she is close to Luis Rubiales. They want more changes,"he said.

"That would probably be the middle ground, but the federation feel defensive and I don't think they are willing to do so."

'Nothing has changed' - Hermoso

When new head coach Montse Tome named a squad for the upcoming Nations League fixtures it included 15 members of the World Cup-winning side, but Hermoso was left out.

Earlier on Tuesday Hermoso released a statement saying calling up players who are boycotting the team shows "nothing has changed" at the country's football federation.

Tome, who replaced World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda when he was sacked as part of the fall-out following Rubiales' kiss, said the Pachuca forward was omitted "to protect her".

But Hermoso pointed out inconsistencies after the federation promised "a safe environment" on Monday.

"Protect me from what? And from whom?" Hermoso said.

Hermoso also accused the federation of using "manipulation" to "intimidate" players and offered her support to the players "who have been caught by surprise and forced to react to another unfortunate situation caused by the people who continue to make decisions within the RFEF".

"This is why we are fighting and why we are doing it in this way," she added.

After the call-ups were announced on Monday, the players published a statement stressing the boycott remained in place and expressing their regret that they were again "put in a position in which we never wanted to be in".

It added they intended to explore the potential legal implications of being called up against their wishes.

Hermoso, 33, said: "We have been searching for weeks - months, even - for protection from the RFEF [Spanish Football Federation] that never came. The people who ask us to trust them are the same ones who today disclose the list of players who have 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. It is yet more irrefutable proof that shows that even today, nothing has changed."

A group of 81 players boycotted the team after Rubiales kissed Hermoso following last month's final, and on Friday, 39 players said their strike would continue until further changes were made - despite Rubiales resigning.

Of those 39 players, 20 were selected for Tome's 23-strong squad.

Before Tome's squad announcement, the RFEF had urged striking players to return to the national team. The organisation previously said the players have "an obligation" to play if selected.

"It's the start of a new phase, the clock is ticking," said Tome on Monday.

"There is nothing behind us and we really want to connect with these players."

Rubiales has been banned from going within 200 metres of Hermoso, who has said the kiss was not consensual, after the 33-year-old filed a legal complaint.

Appearing in court for the first time last Friday, Rubiales denied sexually assaulting Hermoso.

Source BBC

BDST: 0954 HRS, SEP 20, 2023

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