By Ben Church and Patrick Sung, CNN
(CNN) — Jennifer Hermoso has not been named in Spain’s 23-woman squad to face Sweden and Switzerland in its upcoming matches, but 20 players who signed a letter refusing to play the two fixtures have been included.
Last week, the majority of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad refused to be called up for the Women’s Nations League matches as players continue to push for “real structural changes” in Spanish soccer, following the fallout from ex-soccer boss Luis Rubiales’ unwanted kiss on La Roja star Hermoso.
Spain was due to announce a squad for its next two matches on Friday but postponed the decision after 39 players, including 21 of the 23-woman World Cup squad, signed a joint letter condemning the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).
However, Montse Tomé – who replaced controversial coach Jorge Vilda after the tournament – named 20 players who had signed the letter in her latest squad, which was announced on Monday.
“I think what we’re all clear on is that we lived a special situation and everything that’s happened these days, well, has been exceptional,” Tomé said when asked by reporters what had happened between Friday and now for her to include those 20 players who had signed the joint letter.
“The federation has worked to be able to talk to the players. I’ve also worked with them. We’ve listened to them, we thought that we all were a part of this group, and the way is having good communication.”
‘A new era’
When asked to explain Hermoso’s absence, Tomé said she wanted to protect the star but left open the possibility of her returning to the squad in the future.
“First of all, I want to say that we’re with Jenni in everything and with all the players,” added Tomé, who was reticent to talk in detail about conversations she had had with players.
“We think that the way to help them is be close to them and listen to them. As the person in charge, as well as my staff, we concluded that the best way to protect her in this call-up is this way.”
Spain is due to play Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26 respectively.
Tomé said she was confident that all those named in the squad – including two players who didn’t feature at the World Cup, Mapi León and Patricia Guijarro, and were involved in a previous dispute with the federation – will be totally committed. Tomé said that the new squad is due to meet up on Tuesday.
“I think, on a professional level, we are surrounded by incredible group of players,” she said.
“You talk to me about these two players in particular who weren’t at the World Cup. But as I said, we’re starting a new era.”
In the aftermath of the La Roja’s World Cup victory, Tomé was seen briefly clapping alongside other RFEF members during a speech made by Rubiales when he initially announced he would not step down from his role.
“The truth is I didn’t feel good that day,” said Tomé when asked by a reporter why she applauded Rubiales’ defiant speech.
“If I think a bit and ask, ‘Why did I do it?’ well, maybe, I wouldn’t have done it again. But I feel that in that moment, with the big crowd, I clapped and that’s why it happened.”
How we got here
The dissatisfaction felt by Spanish players dates back over a year, when 15 members of the senior women’s squad sent personally signed letters to RFEF via email to announce they would no longer play for the national team unless there were wholesale changes made throughout the coaching staff.
Of the 15 players who signed the letters, only three were in Spain’s World Cup squad: Mariona Caldentey, Aitana Bonmatí and Ona Batlle. That trio were included in Tomé’s squad that was announced on Monday.
Despite those off-field struggles, a young Spanish side produced a magical World Cup run to defy the odds and clinch a memorable title in Australia and New Zealand.
The achievement was subsequently overshadowed by Rubiales’ actions during the medal ceremony.
However, now that Vilda and Rubiales have left their positions, RFEF hopes to kick-start a new chapter in women’s soccer.
Earlier on Monday, it released a statement underlining its commitment to enforce changes in the organization.
“Its absolutely necessary, to realize these changes, to clarify each of the behaviors and conducts which may have occurred and act, as such, with professionalism and justice, settling the relevant responsibilities in each case,” it said.
“It’s evident that the Federation, society and the very players are aligned with this same objective: the renewal and beginning of a new era where football is the great winner of all of this process.”
On Friday, Rubiales testified in Spain’s National Court after being summoned by the presiding judge to aid in the court’s investigation into potential charges of sexual assault and coercion against him.
The Spanish Prosecutor’s office said Rubiales answered questions from the judge and all parties and denied the charges.
Later on Friday, the judge gave Rubiales a restraining order, preventing him from going within 200 meters of Hermoso, and ordered him not to communicate with her during the court’s investigation.
“The whole world could see it was not consensual. That’s what we’ll show,” Hermoso’s lawyer Carla Vall said after leaving the National Court in the capital of Madrid.
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.