Sep 14, 2023, 05:49 AM ET
Alexia Putellas has said Spain’s footballers are fighting for changes beyond just football as the fallout to Luis Rubiales’ behaviour after last month’s World Cup final continues.
Rubiales resigned from his role as Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president earlier this week after multiple investigations were opened into his conduct following Spain’s 1-0 win over England on Aug. 20, which included an unsolicited kiss on forward Jenni Hermoso.
– Rubiales explainer: Criminal charges, possible punishments, more
Speaking after Barcelona Femení had become the first sports team to win the Medal of Honour — a prestigious award given by the Catalan parliament — back-to-back Ballon d’Or winner Putellas referred to the events of the past month.
“This distinction is a paradigm shift,” Putellas said. “We are the first men’s or women’s team to be distinguished with this Medal of Honour — this would have been unthinkable five, 15, 20 years ago, but it has happened.
“This has not been achieved from scratch, so I would like to thank all those pioneers who, before our arrival, promoted women’s sport at Barca or in other organisations. This medal also belongs to them, we are very aware of that.”
The Medal of Honour was launched in 2000 and previous winners include recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, former presidents and the first responders during the 2017 terrorist attacks in Barcelona.
Pep Guardiola, in 2011, is the only previous winner related to sport.
“At Barca, we are helping to build a fairer, more equal society with more opportunities through football. Our efforts and our victories are making us a point of reference for many children, young people and adults,” Putellas added.
“Our commitment to women’s sport and society is unquestionable, but we need more help to keep growing, so that this is not just a fad. And here, if I may, I would like to demand more support for women’s football, more and better facilities, more pitches and more investment at grassroots level.
Alexia Putellas made a substitute appearance in the Women’s World Cup final. Maddie Meyer – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
“Institutions must ensure that everyone, boys and girls alike, have the same opportunities to play football. We want all the girls who come after us to have the tools they need to enjoy themselves, to play, to win.
“We are here to stay, to help those that come after us, because there is still a long way to go, as we are seeing these days with the serious situation we are facing with the [RFEF] and the changes we are all asking for so that no woman, inside or outside football, ever has to live a situation of disrespect or abuse.
“We need consensus, courage and leadership from the institutions. We will not stop here, those who fought before us deserve it, we deserve it for the effort we make every day and all the girls and boys who today dream of being like us deserve it. We will not fail you.”
Barca were given the award because of their success on the pitch but also because of the wider repercussions that has had on sport in Catalonia, especially for girls.
The Blaugrana have won four league titles in a row, two of the last three Champions Leagues and twice filled Spotify Camp Nou, breaking the attendance record in women’s football in the process.
Even with several members of the Barça squad refusing to go the World Cup due to a dispute with the RFEF, they were strongly represented in Australia and New Zealand, with eight players involved in the final.
That success has since been tainted by the fallout surrounding Rubiales, who is due to testify in court as a defendant on Friday.
He is facing charges of sexual assault for the unsolicited kiss and coercion for putting pressure on Hermoso and her family to release statements justifying the events, according to prosecutors.
Rubiales’ conduct is also being investigated by FIFA and Spain’s top sports court [TAD].