Most Spanish players agree to play after deal but two leave camp

Most of Spain's women's national team have agreed to stay with the squad, the government said Wednesday, after a strike by the World Cup winners sparked by the disgraced former president of the Spanish soccer federation, Luis Rubiales, forcibly kissing Jenni Hermoso during the medal ceremony after the final in Sydney.

The announcement followed hours of overnight negotiations over player demands for further changes at the Spanish federation (RFEF) after Rubiales resigned.

"We have arrived at a series of agreements which will be drawn up and signed tomorrow" between the RFEF and the Spanish government, Victor Francos, secretary of state for sports, told reporters, adding that two of the 23 players who had been called up did not wish to continue with the squad.

The departing duo, Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro (photo, above), were among 15 players who went on strike before the World Cup in protest at the methods of then national coach Jorge Vilda and other issues with the federation.

Neither played a part in the triumphant campaign in Australia and New Zealand and upon leaving the team camp on Wednesday said they were "not in the right state" to play in the upcoming matches.

The remaining players trained for the first time under new coach Montse Tome on Wednesday afternoon, although two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas (photo, below) told reporters the reason she was staying was "not because I feel comfortable."

The RFEF published a "declaration of principles" on Wednesday evening in which it apologized to the internationals again, including Hermoso -- not in the squad.

The federation said the three key principles they would abide by were governance, transparency and equality, and said they had accelerated further changes they had agreed to make.

One soon materialized with another statement declaring the firing of general secretary Andreu Camps -- a figure whom Spanish media said the players wanted removed from his post.

The vast majority of players had been on strike over changes they want made to the RFEF, sparking concerns they would not play in upcoming Nations League games, jeopardizing the team's chance of playing in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the hours before the deal was announced, players selected by Tome gathered for a training camp despite declaring themselves unavailable, some expressing fear of facing sanctions if they refused to play.

They had faced possible fines and potentially losing their licenses to play for up to five years, including at club level.

Francos, the secretary of state for sport who is also the president of Spain's High Council for Sports (CSD), said Wednesday those who decided not to play would not face sanctions.

"It's a reality that the situation for me and for Patri is different to the rest of our team-mates... we are not in the right state," Leon told reporters. Guijarro, her Barcelona teammate, said: "It's quite difficult and quite hard, and ... mentally we are not right to be here." Valencia player Claudia Florentina will replace Leon in the squad, while a substitute for Guijarro is yet to be named.

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Spain roster:
Goalkeepers: *Misa Rodriguez (Real Madrid), *Enith Salon (Valencia), *Cata Coll (Barcelona).
*Ona Batlle (Barcelona), *Olga Carmona (Real Madrid), Maria Mendez (Levante), *Irene Paredes (Barcelona), Laia Aleixandri (Manchester City), *Oihane Hernandez (Real Madrid), *Claudia Florentina (Valencia).
*Teresa Abelleira (Real Madrid), *Aitana Bonmati (Barcelona), *Alexia Putellas (Barcelona), *Maria Perez (Sevilla), Rosa Marquez (Real Betis).
*Athenea del Castillo (Real Madrid), Inma Gabarro (Sevilla), Cristina Martín-Prieto (Sevilla), *Mariona Caldentey (Barcelona), *Eva Navarro (Atletico Madrid), Lucia Garcia (Manchester United), Amaiur Sarriegi (Real Sociedad).
*World Cup champions.

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New look. The federation released a statement Wednesday saying they were changing the branding of the women's team to match that of the men's team -- both sides will be known as the "Spanish national football team."

Until now, the men's team has been known as the "Spanish national football team" and the women's team as the "Spanish women's national football team."

"Depending on the context, depending on the images ... it is perfectly clear whether we are referring to our [women's] champions or our [men's] champions," said interim RFEF president Pedro Rocha.

The players have earned widespread praise for making a stand to improve women's football, including from their opponents on Friday, Sweden, and across the football world.

"My daughters will remember in the future what these women fought for," said former Real Madrid player and current Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso.

The scandal erupted just moments after Spain won the World Cup on Aug. 20, when then-president Rubiales forcibly kissed Hermoso on the lips as the team received the trophy.
He eventually resigned three weeks after the incident and controversial coach Vilda was sacked, but many players demanded significant structural changes.

Spain faces Sweden on Friday and Switzerland four days later.


© Agence France-Presse

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