MADRID, Sept 19: The player in the middle of the controversy that engulfed Spanish soccer after she was kissed on the lips by an official has accused the country’s soccer federation of trying to intimidate the World Cup-winning players by picking them for the national team even though they asked not to be called up.
Jenni Hermoso, who said she did not consent to the kiss by former federation president Luis Rubiales during the World Cup awards ceremony last month, said in a statement early Tuesday that the federation’s decision to call up nearly half of the 39 players who said they would not play for the national team as a protest was “irrefutable proof” that “nothing has changed.”
The players had said they wouldn’t come back until their demands for deep reforms and new leadership in the federation were met, but new coach Montse Tomé on Tuesday picked 15 of the players who helped Spain win its first Women’s World Cup last month.
Tomé left Hermoso off the list “as a way to protect her,” she said.
“Protect me from what?” Hermoso said. “A claim was made stating that the environment within the federation would be safe for my colleagues to rejoin, yet at the same press conference it was announced that they were not calling me as a means to protect me.”
Tomé said she talked to Hermoso and to the other players, and said she was confident that they would all report to training camp on Tuesday.
The players said Monday that they were caught by surprise by the call-up and did not plan to end their boycott.
The squad announcement had been originally planned for Friday but was postponed because no agreement had been reached with the players.
On Monday, the federation released a statement in which it publicly reiterated to the players its commitment to structural changes.
“The people who now ask us to trust them are the same ones who disclosed the list of players who have asked NOT to be called up,” Hermoso said. “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.”
According to Spanish sports law, athletes are required to answer the call of its national teams unless there are circumstances that impede them from playing, such as an injury. The players said Monday they would study the possible legal consequences of not reporting to the training camp, but said they believed the federation could not force them to join the team. They argued that the call-up was not made in accordance with current FIFA regulations, and some of the players, especially those abroad, would not be able to show up in time.
“I want to once again show my full support to my colleagues 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 federation),” Hermoso said. “This is why we are fighting and why we are doing it in this way.”
Among the players’ demands was for interim president Pedro Rocha also to resign, and for the women’s team staff to be overhauled.
Last year, 15 players rebelled against former coach Jorge Vilda asking for a more professional environment. Tomé, an assistant to Vilda at the World Cup, included in her first list some of the players who rebelled.
Spain will play Nations League games against Sweden on Friday and Switzerland on Sept 26. (AP)