Alexia Putellas says Spain’s meeting with government officials on Wednesday will be considered a landmark “before and after” moment for women’s sport in her country.
A compromise between Spain women’s players and the Spanish Football Association (RFEF) was reached after a meeting with the Consejo Superior de Deportes (CSD — a governmental body with authority in sporting matters) that ran into the early hours, with Putellas saying the players had just four hours of sleep.
The majority of the 23 players called up for September’s Nations League fixtures had reiterated last Friday that they would not play again until major changes were made at the RFEF. Sources close to several players, who asked to speak anonymously to protect their positions, told The Athletic they had not been informed in advance they were going to be selected.
Following the meeting, it was announced 21 players would travel for Friday’s fixture against Sweden in Gothenburg while Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro left the camp.
“There’s a meeting until five in the morning, which we think was necessary but without forgetting that we’re professional sportspeople, so imagine what it’s costing us that we’re not going to sleep,” Putellas explained. “We’ve had a week in which we’ve slept four hours with all the meetings we’re having.
“We’re the first ones who want to be footballers but understand that we’ve had to put in our heads that it hasn’t been possible only being footballers. From here there’s a meeting with the Federation, CSD (the Consejo Superior de Deportes, Spain’s High Sports Council) after Monday’s squad announcement, which we went to angry because after the statements, we understood that we weren’t available for selection. we went to it to avoid possible sanctions.
“I think that the meeting the other day is a point that is going to mean it is a before and after. I really think that. I trust that the agreements we reached, that took us to whatever hour in the early morning, will make our sport and I think also women’s sport and, by consequence, society, much better.”
Players had called for further changes to the RFEF hierarchy despite the resignation of president Luis Rubiales and the sacking of head coach Jorge Vilda, but Putellas denied this included asking for the dismissal of new head coach Montse Tome.
“We’ve never asked for a sacking or putting in place or taking away a manager,” she added. “All we’ve done when we’ve been captains is communicate concerns or concepts in which the dressing room didn’t feel comfortable, always knowing that our job wasn’t that one.”
On her own future, Tome said: “I’ve been in the job little time, I have confidence in the work, I’m eager for this to be resolved and we’re eager to work.”
Defender Irene Paredes explained part of the motivation for agreeing to stay for the upcoming fixtures was to protect the under-23 side, who would likely have been called up in their place, from having to deal with the problems they were encountering.
The World Cup winner conceded there was still a long way to go but hoped this could act as a “turning point” for other nations experiencing similar disputes.
“(At the meeting) they said, among the things that were agreed, that we wouldn’t be sanctioned and then we took the decision to stay,” Paredes said. “Not because we’re particularly happy — because of all the situation we’ve been experiencing since a month ago, because of how we were called up — but we stayed because we believe it’s what we need to do so that the agreements go forward and for this to go on advancing.
“Not just for us but I think we also have a responsibility to the under-23 team. If we hadn’t been here it’s very probable they would have been called up. It’s like passing a bomb to people who maybe have less experience and it could become more complicated.
She continued: “We’re tired, there are things that we understand are already happening and improving. But the light at the end of the tunnel still can’t be seen. This is very long and above all we’re conscious that now we’ve got the loudspeaker to be able to do it, we have a lot of people behind us — lots of teammates, teammates from other national teams, teammates from other sports and women in their own jobs and lives who are suffering similar cases.
“And we want this to be a turning point where they can look at themselves, raise their voices and say, ‘This has also happened to me’ and eradicate all these situations like the ones that have happened.”
Spain return to action against Sweden on Friday before facing Switzerland on Tuesday.
Spain’s women are world champions – yet the disrespect goes on
(Photo: Alex Grimm – FIFA via Getty Images)