‘Values come first’: Spain stars will miss Girls’s World Cup


“It should actually p— me off to not go to the World Cup, however my values come first,” Barcelona and Spain defender Mapi Leon mentioned in March.

This week, she was one of many large absentees, together with membership teammate Patri Guijarro, from the 30-player provisional squad introduced by coach Jorge Vilda for this summer season’s Girls’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The listing can be minimize to 23 on June 30.

Leon and Guijarro had been amongst 15 gamers who concurrently wrote to the Royal Spanish Soccer Federation (RFEF) in September 2022, saying that the situations inside the nationwide workforce had affected their well being and psychological state. Till there have been modifications and enhancements, they didn’t want to be known as up.

The gamers have at all times maintained that they needed their complaints to be handled privately, not performed out in public within the press.

“It is a matter that must be dealt with and resolved internally as a result of what has occurred this 12 months has not been good for anybody,” Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati, one of many 15, instructed ESPN not too long ago. “The one ones who know precisely what is occurring are [the players] and the RFEF.”

Girls’s World Cup bracket and fixtures schedule

Nevertheless, the RFEF has not at all times been on the identical web page. Its preliminary response in September was to name the mutiny “unprecedented” and vow “to not permit gamers to query the continuity of the coach.”

Sources consulted by ESPN on the time mentioned it was not essentially a matter of Vilda, who has been coach since 2015, remaining in his position, however of the entire setup across the nationwide workforce being improved and professionalised.

The scenario endured into this 12 months till, in latest months, with the World Cup in sight, the gamers had been compelled to rethink their positions and their priorities.

On Monday, Vilda named three of the 15 in his provisional squad for the finals. Bonmati, who was not too long ago named the UEFA Girls’s Champions League Participant of the Season, her Barca teammate Mariona Caldentey and Manchester United full-back Ona Batlle all returned to the fold.

One other 5 gamers, sources instructed ESPN, had additionally declared themselves out there for choice, together with Barca goalkeeper Sandra Panos. Nevertheless, Vilda, emboldened by a run of 1 loss in 9 video games with out the 15 — together with a primary win over United States — plus with a way of loyalty to those that have come into the squad, didn’t decide them.

“It is particularly obscure why he is not picked [Panos],” mentioned one supply, mentioning that 4 goalkeepers have been named within the provisional squad, together with Panos’ understudy at membership stage, Catalina Coll.

There have been varied elements behind these eight gamers making themselves out there for the nationwide workforce on the World Cup. Sources say the RFEF has enacted modifications since September 2022. Journey to camps and video games has been considerably improved, the standard of opponents in friendlies has risen and new workers have been appointed to assist with health work and harm prevention and rehabilitation. Gamers are additionally mentioned to have extra freedom throughout meetups, whereas earlier than they felt there was an excessive amount of management exerted on them.

For seven gamers, that was not deemed sufficient. Leon, named to the FIFPro World XI this season and a stalwart within the Barca aspect that has received two of the previous three Champions Leagues, put her “values” earlier than her dream of successful a World Cup. Midfielder Guijarro, who scored twice in Barca’s Champions League remaining win over VfL Wolfsburg this month, adopted go well with.

Past the modifications, enough or not, carried out by the RFEF, the gamers (some greater than others) had been additionally underneath enormous exterior stress to make themselves out there for the World Cup. Brokers, sponsors and types all wish to see the gamers they’re related to acting on the largest stage within the recreation. Bonmati, fifth in Ballon d’Or voting this 12 months, is being championed as a doable winner subsequent 12 months. A starring position on the World Cup, following a Liga F and Champions League double along with her membership, would help her case.

Financially, FIFA’s new cost mannequin ensures each participant that performs within the group stage $30,000, rising to a possible $270,000 for these on the successful workforce. Away from the a whole lot of thousands and thousands being thrown round within the males’s recreation, that may be a enormous amount of cash.

Spain may also have back-to-back Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas on the World Cup. The Barca midfielder missed final summer season’s European Championship, when La Roja had been eradicated by eventual winners England, with an ACL harm. She missed nearly all of this season, too, returning for the ultimate six video games, which meant that, regardless of sharing their assertion and supporting their trigger, she was by no means formally a part of the 15. She by no means made herself unavailable for choice and, subsequently, by no means needed to make herself out there once more. After a 12 months of harm ache, the World Cup is the proper stage to mark her return to health.

Additionally travelling to New Zealand, the place Spain are primarily based for the group stage, can be Irene Paredes. The Barca defender gave the preliminary information convention to voice the gamers’ dissatisfaction with the situations with the nationwide workforce final 12 months. She was not a part of the 15, although, and returned to the squad in April.

Pachuca striker and Spain’s all-time scorer Jennifer Hermoso additionally returned in February and was named within the 30-player provisional squad. Like Paredes, she supported the 15’s assertion, however didn’t formally be a part of them.

It creates an advanced backdrop to Spain’s World Cup marketing campaign. Whereas Vilda says the scenario is now “virtually resolved save a couple of particulars” following a collection of conferences prior to now 9 months, the truth that seven gamers nonetheless do not feel they’ll return paints a unique image. There may be additionally disappointment and shock at how he has handled a few of the different gamers who had been keen to return again, resembling Panos.

Sources, although, insist there is no such thing as a friction between any of the gamers, no matter any contrasting selections they’ve made with the World Cup in thoughts.

It makes it troublesome to foretell Spain’s probabilities on the finals, the place they are going to meet Costa Rica, Zambia and Japan within the group stage. On the one hand, they massively profit from the return of Putellas and Bonmati, two of the highest 5 gamers on the planet, based on the Ballon d’Or rankings, whereas they’ve additionally carried out impressively with out them. However, occasions of the previous 9 months go away a darkish cloud over the workforce, irrespective of how a lot Vilda protests in any other case.

“Some [of the 15] are right here and I’m satisfied they are going to work to be a part of the group and that they are going to struggle for the largest factor there may be in sport, which is to signify your nation,” Vilda mentioned, “however I cannot discuss these that aren’t right here. The 30 who’re listed below are sports activities folks. They wish to construct a robust group; they need the most effective gamers alongside them. Sport unites you. I’m satisfied there can be concordance, calm and concord.

“Since September, issues have occurred, however the most effective issues is how we have now performed. We beat the U.S. for the primary time, obtained to sixth on the planet rankings and we wish to climb greater — which I’m satisfied we will with these gamers. It’s absurd to consider what’s behind us when what’s in entrance of is so, so necessary. We can’t waste our vitality on that.”


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