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Spanish football federation axes women’s football coach amid Rubiales kiss scandal

Spain won the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia last month. 

Spain’s football federation (RFEF) sacked head coach Jorge Vilda less than three weeks after its president caused a scandalous incident at the World Cup final that caused outrage among the footballing world.

Vilda, who shares connections with President Luis Rubiales, will be replaced by Montse Tome, who will become the first woman appointed as Spain’s head coach.

In an open letter on Tuesday, interim Spanish FA president Pedro Rocha pledged to restructure the RFEF.

“The RFEF, in one of the first renewal measures announced by president Pedro Rocha, has decided to dispense with the services of Jorge Vilda as sports director and women’s national coach,” the letter read.

“We value his impeccable personal and sporting conduct, being a key piece in the notable growth of women’s football in Spain. During his extensive period, Vilda has been a promoter of the values ​​of respect and sportsmanship in football,” the RFEF statement added.

Ahead of their triumphing win at the Women’s World Cup, 15 players wrote to the RFEF last year, threatening to boycott the team if Vilda was not sacked.

Players had accused the coach of outdated methods and controlling behaviour, which the RFEF acknowledged.

Responding to the team mutiny, the RFEF stated, “The Real Federación Espanola de Futbol communicates that, throughout today, it has received 15 emails from 15 players of the women’s senior football team, coincidentally all with the same wording, in which they state that the current situation generated affects ‘significantly’ their ’emotional state’ and their ‘health’ and that, ‘as long as it is not reversed’, they resign from the Spanish national team.”

The statement went on to add that players will not be allowed to dictate essential decisions.

“The RFEF is not going to allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers. The Federation will not admit any type of pressure from any player when adopting sports measures. These types of maneuvers are far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport and are harmful,” the statement added.

The 42-year-old Vilda triggered more controversy as Spain’s head coach after he was seen applauding Rubiales in a bizarre speech responding to the World Cup kiss scandal, in which he declared he would not resign.

Football fans responded negatively to Vilda’s support of Rubiales, prompting a response from the coach.

“I’ll never applaud anything sexist, or that goes against equality,” Vilda said.

“I didn’t know what that assembly was all about, I thought I was attending a resignation. I was also applauding [Rubiales’] management. When 150 people are applauding it’s hard to be the one who isn’t. Later, you think about it and you think you shouldn’t have applauded some things. Since the assembly I haven’t spoken with [Rubiales],” Vilda added.

Rubiales, who has refused to resign following his behaviour in the World Cup final, has been suspended by FIFA for 90 days.

FIFA has stated that disciplinary proceedings are underway for Rubiales, who has refused to quit or acknowledge the consequences of his behaviour despite nearly all of the coaching staff for Spain’s women’s team resigning over his “unacceptable attitude”.