Jennifer Hermoso excluded from Spain’s playing list

Spain on Monday revealed its squad for the women's national team's first two games since the team's World Cup victory – and a post-match kiss that plunged women's football into turmoil. The list excluded eight players from the winning team. Jennifer Hermoso, who was forcibly kissed by the country's top football manager at the time, was among those excluded.

“We’re with Jenni. We believe this is the best way to protect her,” new coach Montse Tomé said at a Royal Spanish Football Federation press conference when asked why Ms Hermoso had not been selected for the UEFA Nations League European qualifier Teams for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Earlier this month, Ms Hermoso filed a criminal sexual assault complaint against former soccer boss Luis Rubiales after he kissed her during the World Cup medal ceremony in Sydney, Australia.

Ms Tomé's decision to exclude Ms Hermoso and seven other World Cup winners, three of whom are injured and one now retired, from such an important competition comes amid a high-stakes standoff between Spain's star players and the national football federation.

In August, after winning the World Cup, the team, including the players who were in Ms Tomé's squad on Monday, demanded changes in management and threatened not to play if changes were not made.

On Friday, Ms. Hermoso and 20 of the 23 winning team members signed a joint statement with other Spanish players saying “it is time to fight” and renewing their calls for a restructuring of “the management positions of the Royal Spanish Football Federation.” “a safe place where women are respected”. But they did not explicitly threaten not to play.

On Monday evening, with her demands still unmet, it was not clear whether all the players in Ms. Tomé's squad would agree to play or whether they would boycott the games against Sweden and Switzerland starting on Friday in support of Ms. Tomé. Hermoso.

If they decide not to play, they will face consequences such as fines or temporary suspensions, according to the National Sports Council.

“I trust that they are professional world champions and that they love their job,” Ms. Tomé said, adding that she had spoken to the players in recent days.

In one Statement released on social media On Monday evening, the players' union Futpro said that the players' joint statement published on Friday made it clear: “Without room for misinterpretation, our company does not want to be called up for legitimate reasons.”

“We regret that our association is putting us in a situation we never wanted,” Monday’s statement said.

Minutes later, so did AFE, Spain's main players' union issued a statementand expressed his “astonishment at the lack of dialogue on the part of the Royal Spanish Football Federation on the majority position of the players, who were called up on the basis of arguments that should be respected.”

Ivana Andrés, one of the captains of the World Cup team, is currently suffering from a sports injury. She is one of the champions who is not on Ms. Tomé's squad. In a television interview on Monday evening, Ms Andrés said: “The most important thing is that we want to play.”

But “we want them to treat us with respect,” she added, referring to the association.

Some Spaniards also expressed their dismay at the lineup, including a well-known politician. “It’s not a draft. It’s a threat,” said Gabriel Rufián, a member of parliament from a pro-Catalan independence party.

A Swiss player, Ana-Maria Crnogorčević, who currently plays for Spanish team Atlético de Madrid, also expressed her disbelief on social media. “This is crazy,” she said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Both the players and the association have a lot to lose if Ms Tomé cannot assemble a team in time for Friday's game in Sweden.

Sports commentator Guillem Balagué explained that Spain will jeopardize its Olympic ticket if players boycott the game against Sweden. Only “the two finalists of the Nations League will be there together with the French team in Paris 2024,” said Balagué.

Over the last month, the federation has taken some measures to reassure its star players. They called on Mr. Rubiales to resign, which he did. He appeared in court on Friday in connection with the sexual assault allegations made by Ms. Hermoso. A restraining order was subsequently issued against him, prohibiting contact with Ms. Hermoso. Jorge Vilda, the national team coach, was fired earlier this month. He was accused of controlling and sexist behavior by team members last year.

On Monday morning, the association said in a statement that it guarantees a “safe environment for the players” and is committed to changes within the organization. However, no details of the proposed changes nor a time frame were provided.

Although Ms Tomé replaced Mr Vilda, making her the first woman in Spain to hold the top job, her appointment is not without controversy. Ms. Tomé came under fire when she attended a standing ovation for Mr. Rubiales on August 25 after he made a defiant speech accusing Ms. Hermoso of initiating the kiss and railing against “false feminism.”

The players' statement on Friday called for “zero tolerance” towards association members who have “exhibited, incited, concealed or applauded attitudes against the dignity of women.”

“I shouldn’t have done it,” Ms. Tomé said of her participation on Monday.

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