Shortly before the upcoming international matches in the UEFA Nations League against Sweden and Switzerland, world champions Spain may find themselves without a team. 21 world champions and 18 other top players are on strike. In addition to Jennifer Hermoso, this also includes the current footballer of the year, Aitana Bonmati, the former world footballer Alexia Putellas and World Cup final goalscorer Olga Carmona. The new national coach Montse Tome had nevertheless nominated 15 world champions for the Nations League games. Tome assured that she had spoken to all the nominated footballers beforehand and none had refused to take part. However, the players saw it differently. Late on Monday evening they announced that they would continue their international strike.
Why are the players striking despite Rubiales’ resignation?
Although the controversial association president Luis Rubiales has now resigned after the kissing scandal at the World Cup final and national coach Jorge Vilda is no longer in office, the striking players are demanding further changes. They want to end the male dominance in the Spanish football association RFEF. They are therefore calling for the removal of RFEF interim chief Pedro Rocha and other officials with close ties to ex-association boss Rubiales.
Why wasn’t Jennifer Hermoso nominated?
According to the association, Hermoso’s non-nomination was for her own protection. Although the 33-year-old doesn’t want to play for stated reasons, she doesn’t see the need to be protected. “What should I be protected from? And from whom?” she asked on Platform X.
There has never been any protection from the association in the past. Rather, the nomination of the players who had expressly asked not to be appointed was “further proof that nothing has changed”.
What threatens the players if they stick to the boycott?
If push comes to shove, refusing to play for the national team could result in lengthy bans. Spanish sports law sees a boycott despite nomination as a particularly serious offense. The passage was introduced in order to have leverage against athletes who support separatist efforts in their home region – for example in Catalonia or the Basque Country – by not playing for Spain despite being nominated. The penalties correspond to the political explosiveness: fines of between 3,000 and 30,000 euros can be imposed, and there is also a risk of bans of between two and five years.
What is at stake in sport?
The Spanish women are world champions, but that does not mean they automatically qualify for the next sporting highlight, the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. You have to qualify for the Olympics through the Nations League, and that is anything but easy, as there are only three places available for European teams, one of which has already been awarded to hosts France. Spain must first prevail in the group against Sweden, Switzerland and Italy, who are third in the World Cup, and then reach at least the final in the subsequent Final Four tournament of the four group winners. Should France make it to the Nations League final, third place would be enough to book the Olympic ticket.
How can the conflict be resolved?
The situation is messed up. Both camps insist on their point of view, communication usually only takes place via the media or open letters. Jenni Hermoso recently accused the RFEF of “division” and “manipulation” on X. The association’s plan is to “intimidate us and threaten us with legal consequences and economic sanctions,” she wrote. She and her teammates threatened the association with a lawsuit because the nomination had not been made in writing at least 15 days in advance, as required by the FIFA statutes.
The Spanish government in Madrid has now intervened in the seemingly insoluble dispute. The president of the highest Spanish sports authority CSD, Victor Francos, announced an attempt at mediation late on Monday evening, but at the same time warned the striking footballers of legal consequences. “If the players don’t compete, the government – as much as I’m sorry – must act and enforce the law,” he warned on El Larguero radio station.
At the same time, Francos emphasized that the government was on the side of the players and was not interested in punishing them. “We will tell the players that we will do whatever is necessary to solve the problem, but we ask them to go to the Games. We want them to become Olympic champions.”
On Tuesday afternoon, coach Tome arrived at the team hotel in Madrid. Afterwards, six players arrived, five of whom are actually on strike. Including Olga Carmona, who shared the strikers’ statement on Instagram on Monday evening. Her two Real Madrid teammates, the two world champions Claudia Zornoza and Athenea del Castillo, had already announced that they would not join the strike.
asz/dvo (SID, dpa)