MADRID (AP) — With Jenni Hermoso back in the squad following the kiss controversy at the World Cup, Spain’s women’s players hope to start talking more about soccer than the off-the-field problems that marred their title celebrations.
Olga Carmona, one of the team’s captains, said Tuesday the players are happy again on the national team and want to focus on securing a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Spain will play Nations League games against Italy on Friday and Switzerland on Tuesday.
“There was a lot of uncertainty,” Carmona said. “There were delicate and tense moments, but we are returning to normalcy. I ask everyone to start talking a little bit more about soccer from now on. We are happy and we want to show that on the field.”
Hermoso, who found herself at the center of the crisis that engulfed Spanish soccer after she was kissed on the lips by former president Luis Rubiales at the World Cup’s awards ceremony, returned to the squad and practiced with her teammates again. She had been omitted from the first squad list announced after the World Cup by new coach Montse Tomé, who at the time said she wanted to protect Hermoso.
“Jenni is happy,” Carmona said.
Carmona and many of the other World Cup-winning players were included in the first squad by Tomé despite asking not to play until their demands for change in the Spanish soccer federation were accepted. They joined the team anyway because Spanish sports law states that athletes are obligated to report to national teams.
“It was very difficult during the last training camp,” she said. “Now the group is happy and our focus is on making the Olympic Games.”
Carmona said there has been support from the federation and “communication between all parts has been key” for things to keep improving. She said the agreement signed this week by players, the federation and the Spanish government to make official some of the changes that they had demanded was an important step forward.
“The agreement takes us a lot closer to improving women’s soccer,” she said. “There is still a lot to do, but we took a big step forward.”
Some federation officials have been fired, and a joint committee involving players has been created. Rubiales continues to face an investigation into his actions after prosecutors accused him of sexual assault and coercion for the kiss on Hermoso and his alleged attempt to convince her to downplay the situation.
Spain leads its Women’s Nations League group with six points, three more than both Sweden and Italy. It plays at Italy on Friday and against Switzerland on Tuesday. The group winner advances to the semifinals, and the two finalists will earn an automatic spot at the Paris Games.
Spain won 3-2 at Sweden and 5-0 against Switzerland in its first two matches after the World Cup.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer