Spain coach Vilda set to be forced out amid Rubiales storm

Spain coach Jorge Vilda is likely to be removed from his position in the wake of the Luis Rubiales kiss controversy
Spain coach Jorge Vilda is likely to be removed from his position in the wake of the Luis Rubiales kiss controversyAFP
Spain's controversial Women's World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda is set to be forced out as the sexism scandal engulfs the Spanish football federation, according to reports on Thursday.

Over 80 national team players are striking in protest until the leadership of the federation (RFEF) is changed, in the wake of president Luis Rubiales's forcible kiss on the lips of midfielder Jenni Hermoso after the team triumphed in the final in Sydney on August 20.

Vilda, who last week applauded a speech in which Rubiales refused to resign from his position and railed against "false feminism", later criticised Rubiales' "inappropriate and unacceptable" behaviour.

World football governing body FIFA provisionally suspended Rubiales for 90 days, while the Spanish government are seeking to impose their own sanctions and the RFEF has asked him to resign.

While the majority of Spain's coaching staff offered to step down in the wake of the Rubiales incident, Vilda did not, after Rubiales publicly announced the coach was in line for a new contract with a big pay hike.

Reports in Spain on Thursday said the RFEF's regional presidents had agreed on the need for Vilda's departure at a meeting Monday, although he is said to want another role at the federation if he leaves his current post.

"We can't say that (he has been sacked), we haven't met with Vilda, until next week," said interim RFEF president Pedro Rocha.

"Once we have, we will explain the relevant news... first we have to listen and talk, that's the important thing."

Rocha confirmed Spain men's coach Luis de la Fuente, who led the team to UEFA Nations League glory in June, would be staying - despite criticism in some quarters after he too applauded Rubiales' speech.

"Absolutely (staying), he is backed by all the members of the federation," said Rocha.

"He is a hard worker who is doing wonderfully."

Vilda and Rubiales have been close allies since 15 players went on strike from the Spanish national team in September 2022, in protest against the coach's methods but also demanding improvements from the federation to travel conditions, support staff numbers and other areas.

The coach, 42, was mocked on social media by football fans as Spain players appeared unwilling to celebrate their successes with him as the team reached the World Cup final and triumphed against England.

Many of the 15 players who revolted changed their stance and made themselves available for selection for the tournament, but Vilda called up only three - the eventual player of the tournament Aitana Bonmati, as well as Ona Batlle and Mariona Caldentey, all Barcelona players.

Turbulent history

Vilda took over the Spanish women's national team in 2015, after years spent coaching younger age groups within the RFEF.

Players complained about his training methods and tactics after Spain were eliminated in Euro 2022 by England in the quarter-finals, as well as other issues around the team.

Eventually, 15 players, including many of the team's stars, wrote a letter to the RFEF announcing they would step away from the team because of situations "affecting my emotional state and therefore my health".

Hermoso and double Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas were not part of the protest because of injury but did offer their support to the striking players.

Putellas suffered a knee injury while training with Spain ahead of Euro 2022 - Spanish media reported that such situations were of concern to the players, who wanted more physiotherapists to help prevent injuries.

Vilda was also criticised for being excessively "controlling" by former players.

Spanish reports said he demanded to check players' shopping bags and made the squad leave their bedroom doors open during team training camps to make sure the players were still there in the evenings.

Despite the complaints, Rubiales and the federation stood by Vilda and the coach called up several younger players for subsequent squads to fill in for the missing stars.

Many made the squad for the World Cup as key players including Barcelona duo Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro missed out, standing firm with their protest.

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