As of August 20th, 2023, Spain are the new world champions. After winning numerous tournaments through the youth age-groups, from an outside perspective, it feels fitting that the talent would filter into the first team squad. The women’s game itself has blossomed over the past four years, but the growing pains have been obvious.
The issues within the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) have always been for the players to solve. In 2015 national team players including Verónica Boquete, Jennifer Hermoso, and Alexia Putellas filed a public complaint against Quereda and the Spanish federation as a whole surrounding the inadequate team infrastructure. The coach himself was accused of homophobia, verbal assault, and sexual coercion. The impact of his 27 year stint was unveiled in 2021 documentary Breaking the Silence. Once he was removed, Jorge Vilda entered the fold. Boquete was removed from the Spanish national team setup.
Jorge Vilda is the RFEF’s finest example of corruption and nepotism. His connections to the RFEF secure his position while he berates players for wanting to feel emotionally and physically safe. Fifteen players stepped down from the national team last year. This includes the notable Barcelona trio of Patri Guijarro, Mapi León, and Claudia Pina, who forgoed this World Cup.
Generally, the online discourse aired on the side of supporting the decisions of Guijarro, León, and Pina. This leaves their Spanish teammates in a tough position.
Women’s sports is unique due to the willingness to discuss political, emotional, and economic issues openly. To an extent, there should be an expectation for players to embrace social responsibility. However, the expectation for players to be “nice” or “loyal” to a certain fanbase or take time to respond to every Instagram DM is not feasible. The intimacy of women’s football pre-2019 cannot be carried forward in the same way with the explosion of the sport.
The professionalism of the players needs to be reflected in the media. The overwhelming focus on player relationships, personal grievances, and interactions with the media can take away from this professionalism. The players of the Spanish national team are professional athletes who want to win and represent a nation. It cannot be their job to uphold the standards of a fanbase on Twitter.
There is no one right way to stand up to an abusive coach and an ignorant federation. This Spanish squad did it the hard way. Guijarro, León, and Pina should continue to be uplifted, supported, and recognized for their contributions and their sacrifices. No player should ever have to go through right now and it is the job of the entire sporting world to stand up for what is right. In the words of Christen Press “Women should not have to win to have our voices heard.” After this World Cup, players are taking a collective stance. Over 80 players, including the 23 that won the World Cup, are refusing to play for the Spanish national team as long as RFEF president Luis Rubiales remains in charge.
This year’s World Cup set out to be the biggest tournament in women’s footballing history and it succeeded. Now, La Roja has Spanish media at their fingertips and they are choosing to use it.
Women should not have to win to have our voices heard.
— Christen Press (@ChristenPress) August 25, 2023