Even amidst the celebrations at Stadium Australia following Spain's first-ever Women's World Cup victory, signs of the ongoing protest against the Royal Spanish Football Federation and head coach Jorge Vilda were visible for all to see. Spain's players initially celebrated their triumph by themselves while the coaching staff was on the other side of the pitch, and Vilda seemed generally unwelcome in larger festive gatherings per images and videos from the pitch. Some players eventually acknowledged the head coach and tossed him in the air after the match, but it was notably not the full group.
Vilda's name was also booed twice by the crowd of 75,000 in Sydney, first before kickoff when the starting lineups and coaches' names were announced before and then when he received his medal following Spain's victory.
Vilda and the federation have been under fire for nearly a year over failing to create a professional environment for the team. A group of 15 players sent individual but identical emails in September 2022 asking not to be called up until certain changes were made, including Golden Ball winner Aitana Bonmati. The players' complaints reportedly included insufficient preparation for matches, including travel arrangements and a limited amount of staff, as well as coaches who restricted their freedom during camps.
The federation and players held discussions last winter and spring over improving conditions, which led three of the 15, plus three who publicly supported them but did not send the emails, to eventually be included in the World Cup squad.
The federation continues to back Vilda despite the complaints, with president Luis Rubiales saying on Thursday that the coach has "forgotten the people … who wanted to destroy him." The official account for Spain's women's national team also posted a photo of Vilda kissing the World Cup trophy after Sunday's final with the caption "Vilda in."
Seven of the 15 continue to protest, including Mapi Leon. "Mapi Leon has a way of life and values," Leon said before the tournament, per RAC1. "I can't go back if the situation doesn't change … There has to be changes. I'm not saying that they're not doing it, but I don't see them. What saddens me the most is that I really have to miss out on something when I could have earned it and contributed. It's a shame."
The protest was the subject of several questions during the post-match press conference, though it appeared to be a topic players were uninterested in discussing the topic.
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"I am not going to answer those things, midfielder Teresa Abelleira said, per The Equalizer. "I am very happy and it seems a bit ugly that you are asking that on such a happy day for Spain."
Goalscorer Olga Carmona, meanwhile, issued a vote of confidence in the federation despite the complaints issued by her teammates.
"The Spanish Football Federation has been wonderful. They have given us all the conditions to make winning possible," she said, per Forbes. Notably, neither Abelleira nor Carmona have engaged with the protest publicly.
Vilda, though, took a much more diplomatic approach when he was asked if he would resign as the protest lingers on.
"We're going to celebrate the World Cup and go back to Spain," he said, per The Equalizer. "Then we'll see."