The sexism crisis that has engulfed the Spanish football association is expected to push out controversial Women’s World Cup winning coach Jorge Vilda of Spain, according to sources on Thursday.
Following the squad’s victory in the Sydney final on August 20, midfielder Jenni Hermoso was forced to kiss president Luis Rubiales on the lips, causing over 80 members of the national team to go on strike until the federation’s leadership is replaced.
After last week’s speech in which Rubiales denounced “false feminism” and refused to step down from his post, Vilda subsequently criticized Rubiales for his “inappropriate and unacceptable” actions.
FIFA, the organization that oversees international football, temporarily banned Rubiales for ninety days. In the meanwhile, the RFEF has urged him to step down, and the Spanish government is attempting to apply its own punishments.
After Rubiales made it known that the coach was in line for a new contract with a significant wage increase, Vilda declined to resign from Spain’s coaching staff, in contrast to the bulk of the group.
According to reports from Spain on Thursday, Vilda’s regional presidents of the RFEF met on Monday and decided that he must quit. However, if he departs his present position, he is said to desire a different job within the federation.
Pedro Rocha, the acting president of the RFEF, said, “We can’t say that (he has been sacked), we haven’t met with Vilda, until next week.”
“Once we have, we will discuss the pertinent news. But first, it’s crucial that we listen and communicate.”
Luis de la Fuente, the men’s coach for Spain who guided the squad to triumph in the UEFA Nations League in June, was confirmed by Rocha to remain, in spite of criticism from certain quarters when he too praised Rubiales’ remarks.
“He is supported by every member of the federation, so yes (he is staying),” Rocha said.
“He is doing incredibly well and is a hard worker.”
Since 15 players from the Spanish national team went on strike in September 2022 to protest the coach’s tactics and to seek adjustments from the federation to travel circumstances, support staff numbers, and other areas, Vilda and Rubiales have been strong friends.
Football fans made fun of the 42-year-old coach on social media after the players from Spain didn’t seem to want to celebrate their victories with him when the squad advanced to the World Cup final and defeated England.
Aitana Bonmati, the eventual tournament winner, Ona Batlle, and Mariona Caldentey are the three Barcelona players whom Vilda called up out of the fifteen players that rebelled. Many of the 15 players altered their positions and made themselves eligible for selection for the competition.
A turbulent past
Vilda coached smaller age groups in the RFEF for many years before taking over the Spanish women’s national team in 2015.
Players voiced dissatisfaction with his coaching style and strategies after Spain’s quarterfinal exit at Euro 2022, along with other concerns pertaining to the squad.
In the end, fifteen players—many of whom were stars on the team—wrote a statement to the RFEF declaring that they would be leaving the squad due to circumstances that were “affecting my emotional state and therefore my health.”
Due to an injury, Hermoso and two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas did not participate in the protest but did show solidarity for the striking players.
Prior to Euro 2022, Putellas had a knee injury during a training session with Spain. According to Spanish media, the players were concerned about such circumstances and want more access to physiotherapists in order to help avoid injuries.
Former athletes have criticized Vilda for being very “controlling.”
According to Spanish sources, during team training camps, he insisted on inspecting the grocery bags of the players and ordered them to keep their bedroom doors open to ensure that they were still there in the nights.
Vilda faced criticism, but Rubiales and the federation supported her, and the coach substituted younger players for the absent stars in later lineups.
Many players, notably the Barcelona combo Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro, were left off of the World Cup roster in protest.