Spain's women's soccer coach fired amid kiss controversy
LONDON -- Jorge Vilda, the coach of the Spanish women's national soccer team, was fired Tuesday by the Royal Federation of Spanish Football (RFEF) following promises of structural changes amidst the ongoing controversy in the wake of RFEF President Luis Rubiales' kiss of women's team player Jenni Hermoso following their recent World Cup victory.
"The Royal Spanish Football Federation, in one of the first renovation measures announced by President Pedro Rocha, has decided to dispense with the services of Jorge Vilda as sports director and women's national coach," the RFEF announced in a statement.
The statement made no mention of the reason for Vilda's dismissal, but went on to list his accomplishments during his tenure. "The RFEF would like to express its gratitude to Jorge Vilda for the services he has provided, for his professionalism and dedication during all these years, wishing him the best of success in the future," the statement said.
The RFEF also announced Tuesday that assistant coach Montse Tomé will take Vilda's place as head coach of the women's national team, the first woman ever to hold that position. Her first game as head coach will be the UEFA Women's Nations League match against Sweden on Sept. 22.
Rubiales kissed Hermoso following the Spanish women's soccer team's first-ever World Cup victory on August 20, when they defeated England 1-0 in Sydney, Australia. Rubiales grabbed Hermoso's head in both of his hands during the post-match medal ceremony and kissed her on the mouth. Hermoso subsequently said the kiss was non-consensual. The resulting backlash and criticism prompted FIFA to suspend Rubiales as they investigated the incident.
Vilda was a close ally of Rubiales, and was seen applauding the latter's controversial "I will not resign" speech August 25, five days after the kiss. On that occasion, Rubiales also said he would sign Vilda to a four-year contract extension with an annual salary of €500,000, just over $536,000 U.S. Vilda soon after criticized the kiss but did not call for Rubiales' resignation.
Vilda was already unpopular with the players he coached. In September of last year, he refused to step down after 15 players on the women's national team wrote a letter to the RFEF calling for his resignation because of alleged inappropriate methods of coaching, and issues revolving around the privacy and well-being of the players. The RFEF sided with Vilda at the time.
Support for Hermoso manifested over the subsequent weekend with mass resignations of players and Spain's national team staff.
The new board of regional presidents headed by Pedro Rocha, which fired Vilda, was formed after Rubiales' suspension and announced on Tuesday an "immediate opening of separate disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Luis Rubiales" in addition to FIFA's suspension.
"The performance of Mr. Rubiales, both at that time and in the hours that followed, it is not acceptable under any circumstances," the statement said.
The statement further offered the RFEF's "most sincere apologies" to a long list of people and institutions, "especially the players of the Spanish National Team" and to "fans around the world, for the totally unacceptable behavior of your highest institutional representative during the final and in the subsequent moments, which did not respond in no way to the values of the whole of Spanish society, their institutions, their representatives, their athletes and the leaders of Spanish sport."
Noting that "Spanish society is an example of tolerance and civility, in all social and political spheres," the statement further declares, "The damage caused to Spanish football, Spanish sport, Spanish society and to the set of values of soccer and sport has been enormous."