Fifteen of the best Spanish footballers have sent a letter not to be called up for the national team, saying that the training methods of their head coach are damaging their emotional state and health.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said in a statement Thursday that it received 15 emails from 15 players who asked not to be selected and referred to the players who have a problem with national team coach Jorge Vilda and his staff.
The federation said it was “an unprecedented situation in the history of football, both male and female, in Spain and worldwide.”
Players said in their letters that the “current situation” had significantly affected their “emotional state and health”, according to the federation.
Spanish soccer star Alexia Putellas disputed RFEF’s characterization that the soccer players had resigned, in her own statement on social media Friday.
“In no case have we resigned from the Spanish national team, as the RFEF claims in its official statement. As we said in our private email, we have maintained, continue to maintain and will continue to maintain an unquestionable commitment for the Spanish national team,” the winner of the 2021 Ballon d’Or.
“That is why we ask in our letter to the RFEF not to be called up for the national team until it resolves the situations that may affect our mental and personal well-being, our performances, and as a result, the results of the national team lead to unwanted injuries. These are the reasons why we have made this decision.”
The players had been unhappy with the management of injuries, the atmosphere in the dressing room, the selection of Vilda’s team and his training sessions, Reuters reported, citing sources close to the situation.
Two-time World Cup winner and U.S. women’s national star Megan Rapinoe posted an Instagram story Thursday night to support the players, saying, “You have a 16 [player] agree with you [US flag emoji] This many players together like this is so powerful. We all need to listen.”
RFEF seems to stand by the coach. The federation said it will not allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, as taking those decisions is not within their powers.
“The federation will not admit any type of pressure from any player when adopting sporting measures. These types of maneuvers are far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport and are harmful,” he added.
RFEF said the players were not allowed to return to the national team unless they “accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness.”
In her statement, Putellas disagreed with the RFEF’s claim that the players demanded changes in the national team’s coaching staff.
“We have never asked for the resignation of a coach, as has been reported,” wrote the two-time winner of the best FIFA women’s player award.
“We understand that in any case our task is not to decide this position, but we can express constructively and with honesty what we believe can improve the performance of the team,” she said.
The rebellion is a high risk move for the players. The federation said that refusing to honor a call-up for a national team was classified as a “very serious offense and can carry sanctions of two and five years of disqualification.”