AP Sports

Spain women’s coach calls up World Cup-winning players and leaves out Hermoso to ‘protect her’

MADRID (AP) — The new coach of Spain’s women’s team included 15 of the World Cup-winning players in her squad on Monday even though they have not publicly announced an end to their boycott of the national team. Jenni Hermoso, who was kissed on the lips by former federation president Luis Rubiales, was not selected.

Spain coach Montse Tomé said she talked to Hermoso and decided not to include her as a way to protect her. The controversy surrounding the kiss led to an institutional crisis and brought embarrassment to Spanish soccer, as well as the eventual resignation of Rubiales.

“We are all with Jenni and with all of the players,” Tomé said. “I’m believe this was the best way to protect her.”

The new coach, who was an assistant at the Women’s World Cup to former coach Jorge Vilda, did not say whether it was Hermoso who asked not to be called up.

A total of 39 players, including 21 from the 23-player squad that won the World Cup last month, had signed a statement refusing to play for the national team unless their demands for change were met. They called for deep reforms and new leadership after Rubiales refused to resign for kissing Hermoso at the World Cup awards ceremony in Sydney. Rubiales eventually stepped down, but the players said not all of their demands had been met.

Tomé’s list included 20 of the players who signed the statement refusing to play, including two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who last week called for sweeping reform in the federation.

Tomé also included some of the players who last year had rebelled against Vilda asking for a more professional environment.

Tomé said she talked to the World Cup-winning players that she selected and expected them to report to training camp on Tuesday. She said no player asked not to be called up, but wouldn’t say whether they had actually agreed to end their boycott.

“The players are professional and I believe that they will do their job well,” Tomé said. “They are world champions, they love their profession. It’s a privilege to be in the Spanish national team and I know that they will be here with us tomorrow (Tuesday).”

According to Spanish sports law, athletes are required to answer the call of its national teams unless there are circumstances that impede them from playing, such as an injury.

Spain will play Nations League games against Sweden on Friday and Switzerland on Sept. 26.

Tomé had been originally scheduled to announce her squad on Friday, but the federation postponed her news conference 20 minutes before it was supposed to happen because of the boycott.

Monday’s squad announcement came after the federation released a statement in which it publicly reiterated to the players its commitment to structural changes in the institution.

“We urge the players to join these changes led by the federation, knowing that these transformations must be fair and solid,” the federation said. “We guarantee a safe environment for the players and we are committed to promoting mutual trust so that we can work together and ensure that women’s soccer continues to progress strongly.”

Among the players’ demands was for interim president Pedro Rocha also to resign, and for the women’s team staff to be overhauled.

The federation had said Rocha would lead “a process of transition” until the federation can hold elections.

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