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2023 Women's World Cup

Jorge Vilda fired as Spanish federation apologizes ‘to society as a whole’

Spain’s divisive coach is out less than three weeks after a World Cup title as the federation tries to distance itself from suspended president Luis Rubiales

Photo: Ane Frosaker / SPP

Jorge Vilda has been fired as head coach and sporting director of Spain’s women’s national team less than three weeks after coaching the squad to a historic first Women’s World Cup title. The move is the first measure in what the Royal Spanish Football Federation claims will be sweeping changes in the ongoing fallout from suspended president Luis Rubiales’ on-stage kiss on the lips of Spain midfielder Jenni Hermoso.

Vilda had been Spain’s coach since late 2015, taking over just after the team’s first senior World Cup appearance and guiding the squad to the knockout stage of the tournament in 2019. In September 2022, 15 players emailed the RFEF asking for changes, including improved conditions to the environment created by Vilda. The RFEF rebuked the players — many among the best in the world — and backed Vilda. Now, with a World Cup in hand and Rubiales temporarily removed, Vilda is out.

Spain has already appointed a new head coach to replace Vilda: Montse Tomé, the first woman head coach in the Spanish women’s national team’s history. Tomé was part of the 2023 World Cup coaching staff.

In a letter issued moments before the Vilda news, RFEF interim president Pedro Rocha distanced himself from Rubiales and apologized “to the world of football and to society as a whole” for Rubiales’ actions, which saw the disgraced president dig in his heels to fight against being removed from his role. Days after Spain’s World Cup victory and the incident with Hermoso — caught on international television during the medal ceremony — Rubiales vowed to stand his ground, drawing applause from a room of mostly men that included Vilda. The following day, FIFA issued a provisional, 90-day suspension of Rubiales from his role.

Vilda, who was backed by Rubiales throughout criticism from players last year, did an about face in the days after Rubiales’ speech and called for the president to resign. By that time, Vilda’s technical staff had already resigned.

Rubiales has remained combative about the criticism and discipline aimed toward him, saying that the kiss on Hermoso’s lips was consensual despite Hermoso refuting that claim.

On Tuesday, Rocha said in his statement that those remaiming at the federation were “embarrassed” by Rubiales. “The damage caused… has been enormous.” Previous communications made by Rubiales, including those that called Hermoso a liar, have been removed from the federation’s site. Rocha said in the statement that such actions were taken because the words represented Rubiales and not the federation.

“Mr. Rubiales’ performance does not represent the values defended by the Spanish Federation, nor the values of Spanish society as a whole, and his performance must be attributed solely and exclusively to him,” Rocha said.

A day earlier, the captains of Spain’s men’s team also spoke out against Rubiales, calling his behavior “unacceptable.”

Vilda oversaw Spain’s sharp rise to a global women’s soccer power, including at the youth level. Spain won both the U-17 and U-20 World Cups last year before claiming the senior title in August. Even in firing Vilda as part of an overhaul — implicitly acknowledging the coach’s role in the environment — the RFEF heaped praise upon him.

“We value his impeccable personal and sporting conduct, being a key player in the remarkable growth of women’s football in Spain,” the federation said in a statement. “During his long period, Vilda has been a promoter of the values ​​of respect and fair play in football.”

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