MADRID (AP) — The Spanish soccer federation fired women’s national team coach Jorge Vilda on Tuesday, less than three weeks after his team won the Women’s World Cup title and amid the controversy involving suspended federation president Luis Rubiales.
The coach was among those who applauded Rubiales when he refused to resign despite facing widespread criticism for kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips without her consent during the title celebrations in Sydney last month.
Rubiales, who also grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture after the final, has been provisionally suspended by FIFA and is facing a Spanish government case against him for the conduct that prompted a storm of criticism and led to widespread calls for his resignation.
Vilda later said Rubiales’ behavior was improper. Men’s coach Luis de la Fuente also applauded Rubiales’ diatribe against what he called “false feminists,” and apologized on Friday for having clapped in what he described an “inexcusable human error.”
The captains of Spain’s men’s national team on Monday condemned Rubiales’ “unacceptable behavior” in a show of support for the Women’s World Cup-winning team.
Vilda was at the helm at the World Cup even though some players rebelled against him less than a year ago in a crisis that put his job in jeopardy. Fifteen players stepped away from the national team for their mental health, demanding a more professional environment. Only three returned to the squad that won the World Cup.
The players who left the team had signed a letter complaining about Vilda and the conditions for the national team.
Vilda was heavily backed by Rubiales throughout the process.
The federation said Vilda was “key to the notable growth of women’s soccer” and thanked him for leading Spain’s national team to the World Cup title and to No. 2 in the FIFA rankings — its highest ever position.
“The federation wants to express its gratitude to Jorge Vilda for the services provided, for his professionalism and his dedication during all these years, wishing him success for the future,” the federation said in a statement. “He leaves the federation with an extraordinary sporting legacy thanks to the implementation of a recognized game model and a methodology that has been an engine of growth for all the women’s categories of the national team.”
Vilda had been at the helm of the women’s team since 2015. He was also relieved of his position as sporting director.
Vilda’s replacement was not immediately announced.
Vilda received a lukewarm welcome by fans during the team’s titles celebration back in Madrid after the World Cup. He had been jeered by some during a viewing party during the final.
Spain hadn’t celebrated a soccer World Cup title since the men’s team won its lone trophy at the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
The women’s team made it to only its third World Cup appearance in Australia and New Zealand. La Roja had advanced to the knockout round four years ago but lost to eventual champion the United States. It hadn’t gone past a major semifinal since the 1997 European Championship.
The president currently in charge of the Spanish soccer federation, Pedro Rocha, released a letter on Tuesday apologizing to the soccer world and to society in general for Rubiales’ behavior.
Rocha said the federation had the responsibility to ask for “the most sincere apologies to the soccer world as a whole,” as well as to soccer institutions, fans, players — especially of the women’s national team — “for the totally unacceptable behavior of its highest representative.”
“In no way his behavior represents the values of Spanish society as a whole, its institutions, its representatives, its athletes and the Spanish sports leaders,” Rocha wrote.