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The Spanish Football Federation has sacked women’s manager Jorge Vilda only two weeks after winning the World Cup amid the ongoing Luis Rubiales crisis.
Vilda’s entire playing and coaching staff resigned in protest against Rubiales, the Federation (RFEF) president who refused to step down over his conduct during the final in which he kissed forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips during Spain’s trophy presentation. He was also pictured handling other players, kissing them on the cheek and grabbing his own crotch in an aggressive celebration.
Rubiales has been provisionally suspended by Fifa from all football-related activity and banned from contacting Hermoso or those close to her while an investigation is carried out.
In a speech made to RFEF officials and the media, Rubiales refused to resign and hit out at a “witch hunt” against him – and Vilda was pictured in the audience applauding the man who appointed him as head coach of the women’s team in 2015. Vilda later issued a statement condemning Rubiales’ conduct but did not resign, and he has now been removed from his post.
In their statement, the RFEF praised Vilda for his “impeccable personal and sporting conduct” but said the decision marked “one of the first renewal measures” for women’s football announced by current RFEF president, Pedro Rocha.
“The RFEF appreciates his work at the head of the national team and in his role as the head of sports for the women’s teams, as well as the successes achieved during his time culminating in the recent World Cup victory,” they added.
Vilda’s former assistant, Montse Tome, has since been announced as his successor, becoming the first female head coach of the women’s side. On her appointment, the federation said: “She knows the locker room very well and also has extensive knowledge of the excellent national talent pool.”
Vilda has long been a controversial and unpopular figure among the Spanish squad. His team looked to be on the brink of implosion 12 months ago when 15 players made themselves unavailable for selection, saying that the environment of the national team was having a negative impact on their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
They complained about the oppressive nature of Vilda’s managerial regime and were unhappy about how outdated the international set-up seemed. Some of the arrangements, like travelling long distances by bus or not having staff in certain key roles, fell well below their standards at club level and they did not feel the Spanish FA was giving them the best chance of fulfilling a unique generation of talent.
Other complaints included the coach’s demands that their hotel room doors remain unlocked until midnight and that their bags were routinely checked. But it is his support for Rubiales, rather than his controversial spell as manager which culminated in lifting the World Cup, which has brought his reign to his end.
Vilda celebrates with Spain’s World Cup-winning players
(AFP via Getty Images)
RFEF can sack Rubiales but only via a no-confidence vote made by its assembly. That vote needs the support of a third of members in order to be tabled, and two-thirds to pass. It is thought Rubiales retains many allies in the organisation, despite the deepening crisis and the reputational damage to Spain’s bid to co-host the 2030 men’s World Cup.
However, current RFEF president, Rocha, has written a letter distancing the organisation from Rubiales’ actions, saying he is “ashamed” by them.
“The damage caused to Spanish football, to Spanish sport, to Spanish society and the values of football and sport as a whole have been enormous,” Rocha’s letter said. “Mr Rubiales’ actions do not represent the values defended by the Spanish federation, nor the values of Spanish society as a whole.
“His actions must be attributed solely and exclusively to him, since he is the one solely responsible for those actions before society, before the sports governing bodies and, if applicable, before justice. To be clear, this position was that of Mr Rubiales, not that of the RFEF. We feel especially sorry and ashamed for the pain and additional distress this has caused.”