Women's football in Spain was rocked by a remarkable sequence of events in September 2022 that resulted in a group of players declaring themselves unavailable for selection. Having completed their World Cup 2023 qualifying, the national team found itself at a crossroads heading into the showpiece event in Australia and New Zealand.
A number of star performers had been at the forefront of an internal campaign to effect change in the team and it subsequently became very public, provoking a strong response from the Spanish football federation (RFEF).
So what happened? GOAL brings you everything you need to know.
Why did Spain women's players revolt?
Cadena Ser reported that the emails of resignation that were sent by the players referred to recent events within the Spanish team that "significantly" impacted on the players' "emotional state" and health.
A number of senior figures in the group had previously made it known that they felt a fresh start was required for the team following Euro 2022, at which Spain were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by eventual winners England.
However, coach Jorge Vilda, who has the backing of RFEF president Luis Rubiales, remained defiant and stated that he was determined to lead the team to the 2023 World Cup. "I am stronger and more eager than ever," said Vilda. "I want to continue creating a competitive team."
Team captains Irene Paredes, Jennifer Hermoso and Patri Guijarro subsequently insisted that they had not asked for Vilda's dismissal, but had merely "transmitted the feelings of the players", adding that there had been "false leaks".
"We believe that there are internal aspects that they can change. We would have liked it to have stayed inside but there are things that have been leaked that are not true. There are times when things have to be said, even if it is not pleasant, for them to change," explained Paredes.
Hermoso added: "We are defending our team. We transmit a message of general discomfort, each one is consistent in what she does. But when the player enters the field of play, nothing else is thought of."Getty Images
Which players withdrew?
Back in September, 15 players, plus Alexia Putellas who was injured at the time, collectively tweeted a statement confirming they did not wish to be picked for the national team.
It read: "We requested in our communication sent to the RFEF not to be summoned until situations that affect our emotional and personal state, our performance and, consequently, the results of the Selection and that could lead to undesirable injuries are reversed."
What did the Spanish football association say?
The RFEF responded to the player revolt with a statement, which rejected the idea of players pressuring the association into making changes to the coaching team, claiming that the behaviour was "far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport".
The association stated that it "will only have committed footballers", suggesting that youth team players would be fielded if necessary. Furthermore, the RFEF made clear that those who have taken the action of emailing the association will only be considered for selection again if they apologise.
The RFEF statement can be read in full here:
"The Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol communicates that, throughout today, it has received 15 emails from 15 players of the women's senior football team, coincidentally all with the same wording, in which they state that the current situation generated affects 'significantly' their 'emotional state' and their 'health' and that, 'as long as it is not reversed', they resign from the Spanish national team.
"The RFEF is not going to allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers. The Federation will not admit any type of pressure from any player when adopting sports measures. These types of manoeuvres are far from exemplary and outside the values of football and sport and are harmful.
"In accordance with current Spanish legislation, not attending a national team call is classified as a very serious infraction and can carry sanctions of between two and five years of disqualification. The RFEF, contrary to the way these players act, wants to make it clear that it will not take them to this extreme or pressure them. Directly, it will not summon the soccer players who do not want to wear the Spain shirt. The Federation will only have committed footballers even if they have to play with youth.
"This fact has gone from being a sporting issue to a dignity issue. The selection is non-negotiable. It is an unprecedented situation in the history of football, both male and female, in Spain and worldwide.
"The national team needs players committed to the project, defending our colours and proud to wear the Spain shirt. The players who have submitted their resignation will only return to the discipline of the national team in the future if they accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness."
What did Spain coach Jorge Vilda say?
Speaking after the announcement of his November squad, he said: "I don't wish for anybody to go through what I am going through these days. I am deeply hurt, it's an unfair situation that nobody deserves.
"I think it's a ridicule on a global scale. This mess is hurting Spanish football. It's a worldwide embarrassment.
"My solution is this list. I don't see, for now, another solution. I have to call up the players who want to be here 100 per cent. In no moment [did I consider resigning]. It would be unfair, for what we created in the past and are in the present."
What next for Spain and the RFEF?
Spain have gone to the Women's World Cup without many of their established stars.
La Roja's provisional squad for the tournament did not include 12 of the 15 players who sent the letter, with Manchester United's Ona Batlle and Barcelona pair Aitana Bonmati and Mariona Caldentey the only players who returned.
Alexia Putellas, who supported the strikers without officially withdrawing herself, was also recalled. Mapi Leon, Patri Guijarro and Sandro Panos are among the high-profile stars who won't be present during the competition unless there is a major turnaround.
Spain 2023 Women's World Cup squad
|Goalkeeper||Misa Rodriguez||Real Madrid|
|Defender||Ivana Andres||Real Madrid|
|Defender||Olga Carmona||Real Madrid|
|Defender||Rocio Galvez||Real Madrid|
|Defender||Oihane Hernandez||Athletic Club|
|Midfielder||Teresa Abelleira||Real Madrid|
|Midfielder||Irene Guerrero||Atletico Madrid|
|Midfielder||Claudia Zornoza||Real Madrid|
|Forward||Athenea del Castillo||Real Madrid|
|Forward||Esther Gonzalez||Real Madrid|
|Forward||Eva Navarro||Atletico Madrid|