Spanish women want to move from shadow to light

Spain's players celebrate their victory over the Netherlands in the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup in Wellington, New Zealand, August 11, 2023.

The dichotomy is striking: jubilant players surrounding the saving striker Salma Paralluelo, 19, and a man, alone, in the middle of the lawn. Friday August 11, in Wellington, New Zealand, the Spanish team has just validated its ticket for the semi-finals of the Women’s Football World Cup, to the detriment of the Netherlands (2-1, after extra time ). A first in the history of La Roja. However, as since the start of the competition, Jorge Vilda is not really invited to the party. The coach will be content with a simple hug with a few members of his staff, before returning to the locker room.

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Tuesday, August 15, at 10 a.m. (Paris time), his troops face Sweden to try to get a little closer to their dream of winning a first major title. In just under a year, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has gone from a latent conflict between the Madrid player and his players to qualifying for the last four of a World Cup. Behind the beautiful story, resentments are still stubborn.

The affair started in September 2022, when fifteen members of the group expressed their dissatisfaction with Jorge Vilda in a joint e-mail sent to the high authorities of the RFEF. In question, the poor quality of the training offered by the technical staff of the coach compared to what they endure in their respective clubs, and a lack of tactical preparation for the matches, which would explain the elimination of Spain, in the quarter-finals of Euro 2022 against the host country and eventual winner, England.

Some allegations also relate to the methods employed by the coach to spy on the personal lives of the players, tracing their whereabouts and their purchases, which would affect ” seriously “ their emotional state and [leur] health “.

Pressure from the club

Staff executives are part of this list: FC Barcelona residents Mapi Leon, Sandra Paños, Aitana Bonmati, Claudia Pina, Mariona Caldentey, as well as Ona Batlle and Lucia Garcia, who play under the colors of Manchester United , or Leila Ouahabi and Laia Aleixandri, from Manchester City. A few days later, seven other Real Madrid internationals claim to have been pressured by their club not to join the initiative of their comrades.

Despite the talks started with the federation, the fifteen signatories of the e-mail withdraw from the selection. A sling reminiscent of that suffered, in February 2023, by the coach of Les Bleues, Corinne Deacon, released by her captain, Wendie Renard, and by her two flagship attackers, Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto. Weakened by disappointing results – including elimination in the quarter-finals of the World Cup at home in 2019 – and deprived of the support of Noël Le Graët, former president of the French Football Federation, she was finally sacked a few weeks later. . Unlike his colleague, Jorge Vilda, he is consolidated in his position and reorganizes his group against winds and tides.

Read also: Corinne Deacon is no longer the coach of the French women’s football team

The former coach of the Spain women’s under-17 team arrived on the La Roja bench in a particular context. After a failed 2015 World Cup – with an exit from the competition in the first round – his predecessor, Ignacio Quereda, had been forced to resign from his post after being the subject of complaints from the twenty-three players selected for macho behavior and demeaning towards the group as well as for a lack of preparation.

It is “something that belongs to the past”

Of the fifteen rebels, only Aitana Bonmati, Ona Batlle and Mariona Caldentey – scorer against the Netherlands on Friday – are on the adventure in Australia and New Zealand. Other players who have supported the movement, such as executives Irene Paredes (11 goals in 94 selections) and Patricia Guijarro (10 goals, 50 selections), who had denounced “general malaise” related to Vilda’s methods, were also removed from the list. Strong choices, contested by part of the workforce, which nevertheless allowed players to play their first World Cup, like Salma Paralluelo.


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The coach defended his legitimacy through unprecedented results for a team which is only in its third participation in a World Cup. “We have a president who reacted with courage, who supported me and the staff, argued the 42-year-old coach, quoted by Agence France-Presse. There is a lot of unity in the group, a good atmosphere, a desire to compete, professionalism and ambition. » La Roja’s performance is also on a par with the progress made by Spanish women’s football on a European scale, driven in particular by recent investments by FC Barcelona, ​​winner of the last Champions League.

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There “fifteen slingshot” was a moment ” very difficult “but it’s “something that belongs to the past”, assured, Sunday, the midfielder of Atlético Madrid Irene Guerrero. Asked by the Associated Press about the situation within the group before the semi-final, striker Jennifer Hermoso, who was not among the signatories of the e-mail but who had supported her teammates on social networks, said, as for her, swept away with the back of her hand: “I’m here today, I’m very happy. I hope to continue to write history with my team. » Starting with this Tuesday, at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, against Sweden, the third nation in the world and responsible for the premature exit of the United States (0-0 ap, 5-4 tab), yet double title holders, of the competition.

Our selection of articles on the Football World Cup in Australia and New Zealand

  • The end of the adventure, but the beginning of the story for Les Bleues
  • Master Fox or the art of communication
  • Les Bleues outclass Morocco and imagine themselves as dream breakers
  • The odyssey of Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, fighter and goalkeeper of Les Bleues
  • How Morocco led its women’s football revolution
  • France-Morocco, “small” round of 16 between friends
  • The crescendo of Kadidiatou Diani, author of the first hat-trick of a Frenchwoman in the World Cup
  • How did women get their own FIFA World Cup? Understand in three minutes
  • The French team, guided by its “two Foxes”, finds the way to success against Brazil
  • Amel Majri and Selma Bacha, the Lyon left in the service of the Bleues
  • For Haiti, a first World Cup thanks to a generation born in the ruins
  • Les Bleues and the temptation of the stranger
  • Ineffective and sometimes feverish, the Blues miss their debut against the Jamaicans
  • Hervé Renard, coach of the Bleues, “immerses himself fully in this cause”
  • The France team attacks the World Cup in search of the “click” to finally win

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