On July 20th, the FIFA Women’s World Cup begins in Australia and New Zealand.
An appointment which, unfortunately, some of the best female football players on the planet will miss. In particular, many of the top players from Spain, in whose national football team a serious conflict has been underway for months.
A group of international players, known as ‘The 15’, declared their unavailability for selection unless the Spanish federation replaced coach Jorge Vilda.
The group was made up of 15 players from Barça, Real Sociedad, Atlético de Madrid and Athletic Club de Bilbao, as well as Spanish players in Manchester City and Man United.
No-one from Real Madrid, curiously enough. From the Barça team which has just won its second Champions League, there was Patri Guijarro, scorer of two goals in the final; Aitana Bonmatí, MVP of the competition; Sandra Paños, Claudia Pina, Mariona Caldentey and Mapi León.
The Spanish federation refused to yield an inch and spoke of “dignity”. The group’s position also seemed unmovable, but the months have passed and some have yielded.
Yesterday Spain’s preliminary squad for AU-NZ 2023 was made public and, for example, Aitana Bonmatí will be there. Mariona too. Even two-time Balon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who had not signed the document, having been injured at the time, but had shown her support.
Barça goalkeeper Sandra Paños wrote to the selector to offer to go to the World Cup, but Vilda has left her out.
On the other hand, neither Patri, nor Pina nor Mapi have moved even a millimeter.
They have sacrificed what could be the most important appointment of their footballing careers for their principles. Mapi León is one of the best defenders in the world. Without her, the Spanish team’s options are reduced.
It doesn’t matter to the Federation, which prefers to back the coach Vilda to the detriment of the squad.
At no time have they tried to build bridges with the discontented players, not even with León. The group of players has remained strong, determined, brave; the response has been to ignore them. Even despise them.
A gesture that highlights the authoritarianism that prevails in the management of the women’s team. It’s not everyone’s team, it’s the team of a few.
Mapi León is not giving in. The official response is surreal
The press conference presenting the preliminary squad put on display the turbulent situation surrounding the Spanish women’s team.
The fact that Aitana and Alexia are there is the great triumph of the men in the backrooms, the “breakthrough” they were looking for.
The silence about the ones that aren’t there, however, is its condemnation.
They don’t want to stir up the issue, lest they get burnt again. But of course, there are surreal situations in which they manage to place themselves in the eye of the hurricane.
For example, when someone decides to tweet to one of the key players congratulating her on her birthday. Yes, today María Pilar León is 28 years old. And the gift she received from the national team was this embarrassing tweet.
Tweet from the Spanish team management on Mapi León’s birthday / Twitter
They wish Mapi a happy birthday after ignoring her as a footballer
The response from her followers and internet users was immediate: “You have no shame”, “What a circus”, “The only one who has had the balls to stand up to Vilda and tell all the truths”, “Disgraceful”, “If you have even a little respect, delete this and stop making an idiot of yourself.”
Produced in association with El Nacional En