New Spain coach unveils women's team with most World Cup winners

football18 September 2023 15:11| © Reuters
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Montse Tome © Getty Images

The new coach of Spain's women's football squad on Monday selected most of the players who last month won the Women's World Cup for fixtures against Sweden and Switzerland in an apparent bid to force them to end their boycott.

The revolt by the players followed a kiss on the lips of player Jenni Hermoso by federation boss Luis Rubiales after Spain won the World Cup. She disputed his insistence the kiss was consensual, sparking a national debate about macho culture in the sport.

Hermoso was not on the list announced on Monday, which included 15 of the 23 cup-winning squad as well as two players - Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro - who were not called for the World Cup after signing an open letter against then-coach Jorge Vilda.

Should they refuse the call, the players face sanctions including fines of up 30,000 euros ($32,000) and the suspension of their federation licence for two to 15 years.

The new coach, Montse Tome, who had been Vilda's assistant for five years, told a news conference that none of the players had asked not to be selected, adding she had spoken to them but declining to reveal what was discussed.

When asked if she was confident that all those on the list would answer the call to play, she said: "I have every confidence in the players...I trust that the players are professionals. They come from being world champions, they love the profession and I know they will be here with us tomorrow."

"It's the start of a new phase, the clock is ticking," she added.

On Friday, a group of 39 players - including 21 out of the 23 cup-winning squad - said it wanted further changes at the country's football federation, as the resignation of Rubiales and the replacement of Vilda were not enough for them to return to the side.

Twenty out of the 39 signatories were included in the squad for the upcoming matches on Sept. 22 and Sept. 26 in Spain's debut in the UEFA Nations League, a competition which will determine which teams from Europe qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The players have not said whether they would end their boycott. The agent of one of the top players in the squad told Reuters he had "no idea" whether she would return to the team. A source close to three more players said they had been "surprised" by the call-up.

An original group of 81 players had called the boycott in the wake of the furore over Rubiales' kiss.

Tome suggested Hermoso had been left out of the squad because of the intense media attention she had received in the past month.

"We stand with Jenni ... we believe that the best way to protect her is like this, but we are counting on Jenni," Tome said.

Earlier on Monday, the federation said in a statement it was convinced of the need for "structural changes" and had to clarify who was responsible for the behaviours the players had brought to light.