Spain unveiled its roster on Monday for the first two matches of the women’s national team since the team’s World Cup win — and a postgame kiss that plunged women’s soccer into turmoil.
Many of the players chosen to play for Spain, however, have made it clear that they are unwilling to take the field unless management changes are made at the soccer federation, and the announcement and the outraged response from many of the players highlighted the uncertainty and mistrust pervading the program.
Only eight of the World Cup winners were left off Monday’s roster, including three who are injured, one who has retired — and Jennifer Hermoso, the star player who was forcibly kissed by the man who was Spain’s top soccer executive at the time.
“We are with Jenni. We believe it’s the best way to protect her,” said the new coach, Montse Tomé, at a Royal Spanish Football Federation news conference, when she was asked why Ms. Hermoso had not been chosen to play in the UEFA Nations League, which is the qualifier for European teams in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
In a statement posted on social media on Monday night, the women’s players’ union, Futpro, insisted on “our firm wishes not to be called up, for reasons that are justified.” The statement added: “We regret that our federation puts us in a situation that we would never have wanted.”
And in the early hours of Tuesday, Ms. Hermoso delivered her own verdict on the roster with a damning individual statement posted on the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter, with the title: “Protect me from what?”
Earlier this month, Ms. Hermoso filed a criminal complaint of sexual assault against the former soccer chief, Luis Rubiales, after he kissed her during the World Cup medals ceremony in Sydney, Australia.
In August, after its World Cup victory, the team, including the players who were named to Ms. Tomé’s roster on Monday, demanded changes to management and threatened not to play unless significant changes were made.
As recently as Friday, Ms. Hermoso was among 21 of the 23 winning squad members who signed a joint statement with other Spanish players saying “it is time to fight” and reinstating their demands for a restructuring of “the leadership positions of the Royal Spanish Football Federation” to guarantee a “safe place where women are respected.” But they did not explicitly threaten not to play.
By Monday night, with their demands as yet unmet, it was not clear whether the players on Ms. Tomé’s roster would agree to play or if they would boycott the matches, against Sweden and Switzerland that begin on Friday, in support of Ms. Hermoso.
If they decide not to play, they could face consequences, including fines or temporary bans, according to the National Sports Council.
“I trust they are professional world champions and they love their profession,” Ms. Tomé said, adding that she had talked with the players over the last few days.
A.F.E., Spain’s chief players’ union, in a statement, expressed its “astonishment at the lack of dialogue by the Royal Spanish Football Association regarding the majority position of the players who have been called up based on arguments that should be respected.”
Ms. Hermoso, in her statement on the X platform, denounced what she called the double standards of the federation for announcing that it “would be safe for my colleagues to rejoin” while excluding her “as a means to protect me.”
Ivana Andrés, one of the captains of the World Cup team, said in a televised interview on Monday evening that, “The most important thing is that we want to play.”
But, said Ms. Andrés, who is currently injured and was left off the roster, “we want them to treat us with respect,” referring to the federation.
The president of Spain’s state-run National Sports Council, Víctor Francos, has also weighed in, saying on a late-night radio show on Monday night that “if the players don’t show up, the government must apply the law,” in reference to the sanctions the players could face. Mr. Francos added, “Tomorrow at 8:30 a.m., I will call some of the players and speak with them.”
Some Spaniards also expressed dismay at the roster, including a well-known politician. “It’s not a call-up. It’s a threat,” said Gabriel Rufián, a member of Parliament with a pro-Catalan independence party.
A Swiss player, Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic, who currently plays for the Spanish team Atlético de Madrid, also shared her disbelief on social media. “This is insane,” she said in a post on the X platform.
Both the players and the federation have a lot to lose if Ms. Tomé cannot rally together a team in time for Friday’s match in Sweden.
The sports commentator Guillem Balagué said that Spain’s Olympic hopes would be jeopardized if the players were to boycott the match against Sweden, because only two teams from Europe — along with France, the host nation — will advance to the Olympics.
Over the last month, the federation has taken some measures to address the concerns of its star players. They urged Mr. Rubiales to resign, which he did.
Mr. Rubiales appeared in court on Friday in connection with the sexual assault allegations filed by Ms. Hermoso. A restraining order was subsequently issued against him, forbidding contact with Ms. Hermoso. Jorge Vilda, the coach of the national team, was fired earlier this month. He had been accused last year of controlling and sexist behavior by team members.
On Monday morning, the federation said in a statement that it guarantees a “safe environment for the players” and is committed to making changes within the organization. But it did not specify details of the changes it intends to make or a time frame.
Though Ms. Tomé has replaced Mr. Vilda, becoming the first woman to hold the top job in Spain, her appointment is not without controversy.
Ms. Tomé came under criticism when she participated in a standing ovation for Mr. Rubiales on Aug. 25, following a defiant speech in which he accused Ms. Hermoso of initiating the kiss and railed against “false feminism.”
The statement issued by the players on Friday called for “zero tolerance” toward members of the federation who have “had, incited, hidden or applauded attitudes against the dignity of women.”
“I shouldn’t have done it,” Ms. Tomé said of her participation on Monday.
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