Spain's Putellas decries decades of 'systematic discrimination'

Marsden: A long way to go between federation and Spain players (2:27)

Sam Marsden reports the latest as Spain players end boycott after federation commits to change. (2:27)

Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas says decades of systematic discrimination in women's football continues to force the players to take a stand after Luis Rubiales' conduct following last month's World Cup final.

Despite Rubiales' resignation as Spanish Federation [RFEF] president and the dismissal of coach Jorge Vilda, Spain's players said last week they were not ready to return to national team duty until further changes were enacted.

However, new coach Montse Tomé called up the majority of Spain's World Cup winning squad anyway for this week's UEFA Nations League games, which also serve as qualifiers for the 2024 Olympics.

That forced the government to step in to mediate between the players and the RFEF, with the players -- with the exception of Mapi León and Patri Guijarro -- eventually agreeing to face Sweden on Friday and Switzerland on Tuesday.

"We have been demanding to be listened to for a long time," back-to-back Ballon d'Or winner Putellas said in a news conference on Thursday.

"For many decades, too many, there has been systematic discrimination in women's football. We had to fight a lot to be listened to and it is so draining.

"After the final, there were a series of unacceptable events from our point of view with the final straw being the assembly [when Rubiales initially refused to resign].

"We cannot continue on that path after the situation which our teammate, Jenni Hermoso, had to experience and, as a consequence, us. So, we wanted to say: zero tolerance. For her, for us and to mark a precedent so this doesn't happen again in the world.

"We were angry when the squad was named and there was a meeting until 5 a.m. It was necessary, but don't forget we are professionals. We have had one week sleeping for four hours a day. We want to be footballers, but it's not been possible to just be footballers.

"We went to the meeting to avoid sanctions [for not turning up]. I think the meeting will be a point that will serve as a before and after. I really think that. I have confidence the agreements reached will make our sport, women's sport and society much better."

The main item the players want addressed is a restructuring of the RFEF, especially around women's football, the communications department and the integrity department.

Since the meeting, general secretary Andreu Camps has been dismissed, while there are also reports Tomé could lose her job, although Putellas denies the players have ever asked for anyone specifically to be fired.

"We want the RFEF to be for everyone, all Spanish people, and for zero tolerance for people who have hidden, applauded or incited abuse," she added.

"I understand that this issue is no longer just sporting, it is much more than that. Football is a reflection of society, so another motive that pushed us to carry on with this is that we don't want what happened to mark a precedent. What happened to Jenni cannot be tolerated."

Defender Irene Paredes said that the players felt a "responsibility" to accept the call up after the RFEF pledged to make a series of changes, even though she knows it will take time to carry them out.

"We were forced to come," she said of being called up initially. "We were angry, but we agreed to attend the meeting. From there, we took the decision to stay.

"[We stayed] not because we are necessarily happy with the situation, the last month and how we were called up, but because we think it's what we should do for the agreements to move forward.

"We also have a responsibility. If we are not here, they would call up players from the U23s and it's passing the bomb on to players with less experience and that could complicate things even more.

"We are tired, as Alexia said, after weeks sleeping very little and having to train and play and give our best. All we want is to play football in good conditions and be respected.

"I hope it doesn't happen again, but if it does, we want the protocols in place to deal with it. There are things that we feel are improving now, but the light at the end of the tunnel still not in sight, it is a long process.

"We are aware we have the voice now and we have to raise it, but many others before us, teammates in other national teams, in other sports, suffering similar situations, did not or don't. This cannot be. We want this to be a point of inflection where women that are suffering can see themselves reflected and lift their voice."

Speaking before Putellas and Paredes, Spain boss Tomé said she wanted to focus on what she "can control," that she stood with Hermoso -- who she did not call up in order to "protect her" -- and the players and that she was not aware of any players wanting her out.

"I have confidence in the work we're doing and hope we can solve this," she said. "I am looking forward to doing my job."

Fifteen Spain players first demanded change last September, with many then forgoing their place at the World Cup, including León and Guijarro, but the situation accelerated after the 1-0 win over England in the final. Rubiales' conduct during the celebrations, when he forced a kiss on Hermoso and grabbed his crotch, eventually led to his resignation, although he had initially refused to step down in the assembly, complaining about "false feminism" and a campaign to oust him.

He is currently facing sexual assault and coercion charges after Hermoso filed an official criminal complaint earlier this month.

Vilda, closely linked to Rubiales, was also sacked by interim RFEF president Pedro Rocha, but the players say the changes needed are not just to do with individuals, but the structures in place.