Analysis: No means no, or how Montse Tome’s first squad list led Spain into further chaos

A month ago, ex-RFEF president Luis Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermoso, signing a contract of death — as the outrage unfolded, the Spaniard was later forced to resign. His right-hand man, Jorge Vilda and former manager of the Spanish national team, was sacked.

Rubiales departure was essential, one of five key changes demanded by the ’39’ (they’ve gained some numbers) but not sufficient. Even as Montse Tome — the first female national team coach in Spain’s history — was appointed, the scandal didn’t slow much. Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmati and a number of heavyweights explicitly requested to not be selected by Tome — they wanted to action rather than words from interim President Pedro Rocha, hand-picked by Rubiales. Those included the restructuring of the marketing and communication teams, as well as the hierarchy in women’s football.

From bad to worse, Tome unveiled her list of the twenty-three players she had selected to face Sweden and Switzerland in their Nations League fixtures. This list contained some of the ‘15’ players, but not Jenni Hermoso. Tome claimed that she ‘talked with the players’ and that she was ‘protecting’ Hermoso — what from exactly remains unclear, as Hermoso herself declared. The newly-appointed manager was also asked whether any player had requested to not be selected — the answer was a clear no. 

A camp where all the twenty-three called up players were supposed to show up in Oliva (near Valencia) was ordered, and the situation became unclear; would players show up? If they didn’t, threats that they’d be suspended for years did not look good either. Some players were still in the other hotel, in Las Rozas (Madrid), some were in Valencia, and the RFEF had to re-book tickets for the players in Madrid — who finally travelled with Tome’s staff. If players did eventually submit to the selections, the mood of the players selected to appear as world champions was not one of happiness, just a long sigh. Asked how she felt, Barcelona star Alexia Putellas replied ‘Well, bad’ prior to her flight. From Madrid, it was obvious that the players were burdened from the weight on their faces. These are the same players that won the World Cup 30 days ago… 

On the other side of things, the CSD (High Council of Sports) acted as a mediator, as chief Victor Francos was sent to Valencia as a mediator. This was after the Spanish Minister for Sports and Culture Miquel Iceta claimed that “The RFEF doesn’t have the right to deprive us of a team, especially after winning the World Cup. A solution will have to be found implicating the CSD”, eventually calling the situation ‘an anomaly’.

Francos flew to the camp to find a solution with the players, and negotiations went on for hours on end. Eventually, an understanding was found – solution feels a bit strong. A commission to regulate the requested structural changes was proposed. Still, Francos expressed his incomprehension of the situation: ““Go, and we’ll make sure that your requests are made possible. If a player doesn’t feel comfortable, and doesn’t want to be present, I think the most natural thing is to de-select them, and that someone else replaces them, without sanction.” Two players still requested to leave — Barcelona players Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro. They’re leaving the camp, without sanctions — asked about the situation, they told the media that they weren’t in condition to play, but that they ‘support their teammates’.

If everything seems to have cooled off, a report by Relevo reminded the harsh reality, where a remains when it comes to Montse’s selections of those that didn’t want to play. Even worse, the lies that she had uttered in the press conference — from claims that she talked with the players, to denying that she was told by playersthey didn’t want to be selected — are also a source of incomprehension for Francos, who will attempt to meet with Tome to understand the situation.

Luis Rubiales and Jorge Vilda might be gone, but the war against the RFEF’s deaf ear hasn’t finished, and it might take a while until the RFEF will understand that they aren’t in a position of power. Any failure to find an agreement will be written in history as the ultimate fiasco and waste of the golden generation that won the World Cup, but that should’ve won so much more. Who will actually play in the matches against Sweden and Switzerland is still a major question mark — and just 24 hours remain.

Tags Alexia Putellas Monte Tome RFEF Spain La Roja Victor Francos
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