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Majority of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad refuse to play upcoming matches amid fallout from unwanted kiss

The vast majority of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad says it will refuse to be called up for the country’s two upcoming Women’s Nations League matches as it continues to push for “real structural changes” in Spanish soccer, following the fallout from ex-soccer boss Luis Rubiales’ unwanted kiss on La Roja star Jennifer Hermoso.

For nearly a month, Spain has been rocked by the incident between ex-Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Rubiales and Hermoso, which has overshadowed the team’s historic victory.

Spain was due to announce a squad for its next two matches on Friday but has now postponed the decision after 39 players, including 21 of the 23-woman World Cup squad, signed a joint letter condemning RFEF.

“As of today, as we have communicated to RFEF, the changes which have been made are not enough so that the players feel in a safe place, where women are respected, women’s football is supported and where we can give our all,” the letter said, which was posted by two-time Ballon d’Or Féminin winner Alexia Putellas on X, formerly Twitter.

“We wish to end this statement expressing that the players of the Spanish women’s national team are professional players, and what most fills us with pride is putting on the shirt of the national team and always taking our country to the highest places.

“Because of that, we believe it is the moment to fight to show that these situations and practices have no place in our football or in our society, that the current structure needs change and we are doing this so that the next generations can have a much more equal football and one at the level which we all deserve.”

More change needed

The latest development comes after more than 80 Spanish soccer players – including all of Spain’s 2023 World Cup squad – had put their name on a letter supporting Hermoso on August 25, originally saying they would not return to the national team “if the current leaders continue” in their posts and if there wasn’t “real structural changes” to the federation.

As a result, interim RFEF president Pedro Rocha began to make moves as part of his “regeneration” of the federation, firing controversial coach Jorge Vilda despite Spain’s unprecedented World Cup win and appointing his deputy, Montse Tomé – the first woman to take over the role. Rocha then vowed in a meeting with the president of the High Council of Sport, Víctor Francos, to make more “structural changes” in RFEF.

The announcement from the players is bound to leave Tomé struggling to field a competitive team against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26.

The development comes after Rubiales testified in Spain’s National Court in Madrid on Friday morning after being summoned by the presiding judge to aid in the court’s investigation into potential charges of sexual assault and coercion against him.

Rubiales resigned from his position on Sunday following weeks of pressure from all spheres of Spanish society and has now been handed a restraining order and told not to go within 200 meters of Hermoso.

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