Jorge Vilda has been relieved of his duties as coach of Spain’s women’s national team, 16 days after the team’s World Cup triumph in Sydney, Australia.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) announced this decision on Tuesday, amid the ongoing Luis Rubiales kiss scandal, which has overshadowed Spain’s historic feat for more than two weeks now. The now-suspended RFEF president kissed forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the medal ceremony of the Women’s World Cup final on August 20 and claimed it was consensual, but Hermoso has insisted it wasn’t.
Sacking Vilda, according to the RFEF is “one of the first measures of restructuring announced by interim President Pedro Rocha”.
“The RFEF appreciates [Vilda’s] work at the head of the national team and in his functions as the head of sports for the women’s teams, as well as the successes achieved during his time crowned with the recent achievement of the World Cup,” the RFEF said in a statement.
“We value his impeccable personal and sporting conduct, being a key piece in the notable growth of women’s football in Spain.”
The RFEF has named Montse Tomé as Vilda’s immediate successor. She becomes the first woman to be appointed to the head coach role. Tomé had been acting as Vilda’s assistant since 2018 and has since “established herself as a key player in the national team’s growth”, according to the RFEF.
Tomé is an ex-player who had a 10-year club career and made four appearances with the women’s national team. Before Vilda there was Ignacio Quereda who was at the helm for 27 years, from 1988 to 2015.
Teodoro Nieto was the women’s national team’s first coach from 1981-1988.
Tomé’s first match in charge of the world champions will be against Sweden on September 22 in the UEFA Women’s Nations League. Spain will then play Switzerland four days later.
There was no specific reason given for Vilda’s dismissal, however, the 42-year-old is a close ally of Rubiales and had been under fire since last year when 15 players sent identical emails to the federation calling for his resignation because he had created a “toxic culture” that is affecting their performance and mental health.
At that time Vilda was backed by the federation. After Spain’s victory against England in this year’s World Cup final, the federation posted “VILDA IN” on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Vilda had been in charge of the national team since 2015. He oversaw 108 matches, winning 75, and reached the European Championship quarter-finals in 2017 and 2022.
“HE LEFT A LEGACY”
The RFEF’s statement added: “The RFEF would like to express its gratitude to Jorge Vilda for the services provided, for his professionalism and dedication during all these years, wishing him the best successes in the future.
“The RFEF is left with an extraordinary sporting legacy thanks to the implementation of a recognised game model and a methodology that has been an engine of growth for all the women’s categories of the national team.”
The RFEF initially tried to brush off the tsunami of criticism which Rubiales’ inappropriate behaviour unleashed, but failed. Coach Vilda was one of those who applauded Rubiales at the RFEF’s extraordinary general assembly in August when Rubiales shouted repeatedly that he would not resign and said he would offer Vilda a new deal. A day later Vilda criticised Rubiales’ behaviour.
Most of Vilda’s backroom team resigned more than a week ago in protest against the incident. Hermoso and 80 other players, including all the members of Spain’s World Cup-winning team, signed a statement that they will not play for the national team until the current leadership is removed.
Rubiales has been provisionally suspended from all football related activities by FIFA for 90 days while FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee is investigating the incident that “may constitute violations of article 13 paragraphs 1 and 2 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the RFEF offered an apology to “the whole of society and to the whole of the football world”.
A statement said: “The Royal Spanish Football Federation, through its president, Mr. Pedro Rocha, considers it is essential to present the most sincere apologies to the football institutions, the players, especially the players of the Spanish National Football Team and the English National Football Team, stakeholders involved in football and the fans around the world for the totally unacceptable behaviour of its highest institutional representative during the final of the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 and in the moments that followed.
“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.
“The RFEF wants to transmit to the whole of society and to the whole of the football world its utmost regret for what happened that has tarnished our team, our football and our society.
“We must apologise most sincerely and make a firm and absolute commitment that events like these can never happen again.”
RUBIALES’ PERFORMANCE NOT ACCEPTABLE
The statement continued: “The performance of Mr. Rubiales both at that moment and in the hours that followed are not acceptable under any circumstances and for this reason the RFEF immediately withdrew from its website all those inappropriate and meaningless communications that did not value what was achieved by the national team and did not take into account the statements by the player about these events.
“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.”
GIVING BACK THE SPOTLIGHT
Rocha added: “I want to congratulate our team once again for its historic triumph, recognising the impact and legacy that this victory will have on the future of Spanish football. We are convinced that their spirit has inspired millions of people of all ages, and we cannot be prouder of the way they have behaved, both inside and off the field of play.
“In due time, I intend to give them back the spotlight and celebrate their achievements as they deserve.”
Credit: AIPS Media