In a groundbreaking move, the Spanish women’s national football team has decided to end their boycott, and Barcelona star Alexia Putellas believes this marks a pivotal moment for both women’s football and society as a whole.
The decision to end the boycott came after extensive negotiations between the players, the Spanish football federation (RFEF), the Spanish government’s national sports agency (CSD), and the women’s players’ union Futpro. These talks resulted in a commitment from the RFEF to implement “immediate and profound changes,” according to Victor Francos, the secretary of state for sports.
“It could be a point where there’s a before and after, I really think so,” said Putellas, a two-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona midfielder. This sentiment echoes the belief that this moment represents a significant turning point in the history of women’s football.
The boycott was initiated following a controversial incident in which then-RFEF president Luis Rubiales kissed forward Jenni Hermoso without her consent after Spain’s victory over England in the Women’s World Cup final on August 20th. This incident, deemed non-consensual by Hermoso, eventually led to Rubiales’ resignation and the sacking of Spain manager Jorge Vilda.
Putellas, in her remarks, emphasized the importance of the agreements that were reached during the negotiations, stating that they have the potential to not only improve women’s football but also have a positive impact on society at large. She highlighted the persistent discrimination faced by the women’s team over the years and the struggle they endured to be heard.
“We were detecting over many decades, too many, systematic discrimination against the women’s team,” said Putellas. “We had to fight a lot to be listened to. This wears you down, in a way that we don’t want to happen.”
Despite the challenges and discomfort, the players chose to return to international duty to avoid fines or bans from the national team. While two players, Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro, did leave the squad, they were not sanctioned for their decision.
Irene Paredes, a Barcelona defender and former Spain captain, acknowledged that the players felt a sense of responsibility towards Spain’s Under-23 players, who might have had to step in if the senior team continued the boycott.
“It’s like passing a bomb to players with maybe less experience,” she said. “All we want to do is play football in dignified conditions where we are respected.”
In the wake of the agreement to end the boycott, the RFEF took action by sacking general secretary Andreu Camps and apologizing to the players for the events that unfolded after the Women’s World Cup final. The federation also pledged to accelerate the promised “profound changes” for the betterment of women’s football.
The fallout from the incident continues, with Luis Rubiales facing a ban from approaching Jenni Hermoso within 200 meters after she filed a legal complaint against him. Rubiales, appearing in court, denied sexually assaulting Hermoso.
As for the future of the Spain women’s national team, Montse Tome has taken over as the head coach, succeeding the ousted Jorge Vilda. However, reports suggest that some players lack confidence in Tome, viewing her as a continuation of Vilda’s regime due to her five-year stint as his assistant.
Tome expressed her determination to resolve the ongoing issues and emphasized her desire to work. She also denied receiving any requests from players to dismiss a coach.
Alexia Putellas closed with a call for “zero tolerance” for anyone who has “hidden, applauded, or incited abuse,” highlighting the importance of creating a culture of respect within women’s football.
The decision to end the boycott and the subsequent agreements signal a new era for women’s football in Spain, one marked by greater respect, fairness, and inclusivity. It is a turning point that has the potential to inspire positive change not only within the sport but also within society as a whole.