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'Not enough': Spain women's players continue strike, demand changes beyond Rubiales' resignation

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - 2023/08/21: Alexia Putellas of Spain celebrates with her medal during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Final match between Spain v England at Australia Stadium, Sydney.
Final score: Spain 1 - England 0. (Photo by Patricia Pérez Ferraro/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Alexia Putellas and 20 more of the players who won the Women's World Cup for Spain are refusing to return to the national team amid fallout from the Luis Rubiales scandal. (Photo by Patricia Pérez Ferraro/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

All but two of the Spanish players who won last month's Women's World Cup have declined to play for the national team in upcoming games, and said in a Friday statement that the Spanish soccer federation's response to the Luis Rubiales saga has been insufficient.

Rubiales resigned Sunday, weeks after his kiss of Jenni Hermoso ignited a firestorm of criticism and a reckoning with decades of misogyny and inequities in Spanish soccer.

Head coach Jorge Vilda, a Rubiales ally, was also fired by the federation's interim president earlier this month, and other officials previously stepped down.

But the players' demands have always gone beyond individuals. Last year, 15 of them stepped away from the team to push for better working conditions. On Aug. 25, after Rubiales initially refused to resign, and after many of the federation's members applauded him, the entire World Cup-winning squad and 81 current and former players in total said they wouldn't play for the national team while Rubiales remained in charge; they also asked "for real structural changes that help the senior team continue growing, to be able to transfer this great success to subsequent generations."

Three weeks later, ahead of Friday's scheduled roster announcement for upcoming Olympic qualifiers against Sweden and Switzerland, many of those same players reportedly sent emails to the Spanish soccer federation saying that they are not ready to return.

Hours later, they released a statement that read, in part: “The changes made are not enough for the players to feel safe, where women are respected, where there is support for women’s football and where we can maximize our potential.”

The players said that, in post-World Cup meetings with the federation, as the Rubiales saga raged on, they'd asked for specific changes "based on zero tolerance for those people who, from a position within the [federation], have had, incited, hidden or applauded attitudes that go against the dignity of women."

In their Friday statement, they broke those demands down into five categories:

• Restructuring of the women's soccer organization chart
• Restructuring of the president's cabinet
• Resignation of the president
• Restructuring of the communication and marketing department
• Restructuring of the integrity department

The statement was signed by 21 of the 23 World Cup winners — all but Real Madrid's Claudia Zornoza and Athenea del Castillo — and 39 players in total, including some of the 15 who'd resigned from the team last fall and did not return for the World Cup.

They concluded by reiterating that wearing the Spanish jersey fills them with pride — and that is precisely why, for now, they will not wear it.

"We believe that it is time to fight to show that these situations and practices have no place in our soccer or in our society, that the current structure needs changes," they wrote. "And we do it so that the next generations can have a much more equal football, at the height of what we all deserve."

The federation, in response, delayed their roster announcement; it's unclear how they'll proceed. The qualifiers begin next Friday, Sept. 22.