Spanish Women’s Soccer Team – What is happening?

On Sunday, August 20, at approximately 7:30 AM EST, I witnessed Spain’s Women’s Soccer Team achieve World Cup glory. Some of my favorite soccer players celebrated and hugged each other after an amazing save from the Spanish goalie, leaving the score 1-nil. The celebrations were electrifying and engaging, however, as I watched the president of the Spanish Soccer Federation (Luis Rubiales) “congratulate” players, I was deeply disturbed, and I had to remind myself that this is Europe, the culture is different there. As I watched, kisses on the cheek continued for each player, as well as awkward and deadlocked hugs in which the man, who should be professional, was lifting players from the ground in such an embrace. This knowledge of Coach Jorge Vilda sat in the back of my mind as I watched what was happening on the screen, making me uncomfortable. But I brushed it off as something I wasn’t used to. Then, Luis Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips, appearing without consent. I wasn’t sure what I just saw, but I knew it wasn’t right. 

Photo from Getty

Coach Vilda

In order to fully understand the toxicity of this Soccer Federation, some background is needed. Spanish Women’s Soccer Coach, Jorge Vilda, was heavily accused of verbally and emotionally abusing players prior to the 2023 World Cup. September of 2022, fifteen players of the Women’s Soccer Team emailed the RFEF (Royal Spanish football Federation) stating that their emotional and health state had been significantly affected by recent events, and that coaching changes should be made if the federation wanted them to play in the World Cup that summer. The players did not directly name their coach, however there was special attention brought to the way Vilda handled injuries, practices, and the overall environment of the team. It was quite obvious that the abuse was coming from the head coach. The RFEF disputed the claims of the players, viciously defending the coach, stating that they would not be making changes to the coaching staff and that the players made a mistake, as well as recommending that they ask for forgiveness. Luis Rubiales, head of RFEF, was the main communicator when it came to his protection, saying, “Vilda is going nowhere.”. 

World Cup 2023

The Spaniard Team continued without these 15 players for the following friendlies, in preparation for the World Cup. Apparently there was a discussion internally, between the athletes and Beatriz Alvarez, where she convinced some of the 15 to come back. Shortly before the World Cup, Vilda only accepted back Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmatí, and Mariona Caldentey. In the World Cup, the team became known as a very young team, giving spotlight to star player and 19 year-old, Salma Paralluelo. Nonetheless, Spain pursued and won the World Cup beautifully. 

Luis Rubiales is 46 years-old, starting his career as the president of the Royal Spanish Football federation in 2018. In the Winning Ceremony, Luis Rubiales took away the professionality and sophistication of the Spaniard Champions, as he kissed each player on the cheek. Not only that, but he also hugged players in an unbefitting way, sometimes picking up players from the ground. Jenni Hermoso, 33 years-old, has been playing soccer professionally for twenty years. She has scored 200 goals in her career, received honors such as the Silver Ball (2023), and has participated in two world cups. After winning not only her first World Cup, but also the first ever for her country, she was sexually harassed on public television. Luis Rubiales kissed her on the lips, without consent. He tried to take away the celebratory feeling of these players, in accordance with power dynamics and, not only did he disrespect the celebration of winners, but he also lay waste to their respect, expertise, hard work, skill, and preciseness of the game of soccer. It’s not easy knocking out the best teams in the world, let alone winning a World Cup however, these women did not let any of this toxicity get to their amazing fight and win. They continued to celebrate as champions. 


Many WoSo players and teams have stood in alliance with Jenni, using hashtags and bracelets that say “Se acabo”, “Contigo Jenni”  or “We stand with Jenni”, showing immense support both on and off the field. Miguel Galán, head of the National Training Center of Football Managers, filed a formal complaint, accusing Rubiales of sexism and corruption. Additionally, some male players have stood with Jenni as well. Spaniard soccer player Borja Iglesias refuses to play after Rubiales refused to resign. 

As of today, Rubiales has denied all allegations but has been suspended by FIFA with a disciplinary hearing soon. As for Vilda, he was fired on September 5, 2023. 


These are necessary actions to heal the abuse these players have gone through, although it is not the end all be all of justice in the Women’s Soccer World. The incidents surrounding the Spanish Women’s Soccer Federation have shed light on yet more systemic change in Women’s Soccer; Vilda’s abuse was not widely known or acknowledged prior to the final of the World Cup which shows that there is a huge issue with cover ups and inattentiveness to players, as well as a widely spread ignorance when it comes to systemic issues in Women’s Sports. 


Writer at The City Voice

My name is Lucia and I am a freshman at City High Middle. Some of my favorites things are soccer, reading, Clairo's music, and the movie Little Women.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments