Spain players reluctantly turn up for training amid threat of disciplinary action

Spain's Olga Carmona is seen leaving their hotel

Spain’s players have reluctantly arrived at their training camp, despite having planned to stage a boycott, after feeling they were left with ‘no other choice’ by Spain’s football federation (RFEF).

The players want to remain on strike but faced the threat of disciplinary action if they failed to turn up on Tuesday morning.

They had stated their intention to go on strike last Friday, but sought legal advice on Monday evening after being instructed to turn up. New head coach Montse Tome has unexpectedly named the majority of their World Cup-winning squad in her squad list for their upcoming Women’s Nations League fixtures against Sweden and Switzerland.

In the wake of the sexism row that has rocked the sport since Luis Rubiales kissed forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips at the World Cup final in Sydney, the players are demanding major reform and structural changes at the RFEF.

Hermoso has issued a stinging riposte to new Spain head coach Montse Tome’s claims that she did not call the forward up to her squad for her own protection.

Hermoso, who has accused former Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales of sexual assault for the incident after the World Cup final, was omitted from Tome’s first squad list, with the former assistant to ex-head coach Jorge Vilda saying: “We believe that the best way to protect her is like this.”

However, Hermoso responded with a scathing statement on social media, asking: “Protect me from what? And from whom? We have been searching for weeks – months, even – for protection from the RFEF that never came.”

And for her team-mates who were called up after feeling they were left with ‘no other choice’ by the RFEF but to attend, despite previously declaring their intentions to boycott the team. The players have demanded reforms at the RFEF in the wake of the Rubiales saga.

Faced with the threat of sanctions, including the possibility of their playing licence being suspended for up to 15 years, or fines of up to €30,000 per player, following legal advice, the squad – looking extremely dejected – assembled ahead of their match against Sweden on Friday, which remains in serious doubt.

But their arrivals resembled a farce, after some of the squad arrived in Valencia, with Spanish media reporting the venue was changed by the RFEF at the last minute in an apparent attempt to prevent reporters from attending – while others arrived at the original venue for the training camp in Madrid. Players based at clubs outside of Spain were understood to be scrambling for flights on Tuesday morning.

The Barcelona players in the squad, travelling to Valencia, were accompanied by their club’s psychologist, with a source telling Telegraph Sport the Catalan club wished to provide their players with support.

New coach of Spain's female football team Montse Tome leaves after a meeting with players in a hotel in Madrid on September 19, 2023 one day after announcing the squad for the UEFA Nations League football matches against Sweden and Switzerland. Spain won the Women's World Cup in August but the four weeks since have been filled with controversy and turmoil after former president Luis Rubiales forcibly kissed midfielder Jenni Hermoso
Spain's new head coach Montse Tome was also accosted by reporters - Getty Images/Thomas Coex

Real Madrid goalkeeper Misa Rodríguez, the first player to arrive at the original team hotel in Madrid, surrounded by reporters, was asked if she was happy to be on Tome’s squad list and replied simply “No.”

England striker Rachel Daly, speaking on Tuesday in the comparatively serene calm of St George’s Park, where the Lionesses are preparing for Friday’s meeting with Scotland, described that reply from Rodriguez as “heartbreaking”, adding: “It’s awful to hear that. Everyone in the female game stands with them, the Spanish players and in particular Jenni Hermoso. Hopefully it all gets resolved in the right way. We all stand with her in solidarity.

“It shows how far we’ve still got to go in women’s football in the world. It’s a really, really sad time to watch players, colleagues go through things like that. I think every female player in the whole world stands with the Spanish team.”

According to a source close to the team, several of the Spain squad did not know they had been called up until they watched Tome’s squad announcement live on television on Monday.

Atletico Madrid and Switzerland full-back Ana Crnogorcevic blasted the RFEF’s approach in a social media post on Monday, Atletico Madrid and Switzerland full-back Ana Crnogorcevic added:

Spanish Minister of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta, also condemned the RFEF’s approach, saying: “The RFEF doesn’t have the right to deprive us of a team, especially after winning the World Cup, for the Olympics,” referring to the fact the upcoming Nations League fixtures also serve as the start of the qualification process for next summer’s Olympic women’s football competition.

Discussing the possibility of Spain boycotting Friday’s match, Sweden’s Manchester City midfielder Filippa Angeldahl said: “It is a very difficult situation. They [Spain’s players] should know that they have all the support they need, that other countries support them in whatever decision they choose to take.

“If they feel they have to stage a boycott so that something gets done, obviously we will support them.”