Soccer-Spain fire Vilda as women's team coach, name assistant as replacement

FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Semi Final - Spain v Sweden

By Fernando Kallas

MADRID (Reuters) -Spain's women's team coach Jorge Vilda has been sacked, the football federation (RFEF) said on Tuesday, 10 days after FIFA suspended RFEF's president for kissing team player Jenni Hermoso on the mouth in celebration of Spain's World Cup victory.

Vilda was replaced by his assistant, Montse Tome, who becomes the first woman to helm the women's national team. She had been Vilda's assistant coach since 2018 and has since "established herself as a key player in the national team's growth", the RFEF said in a statement.

A new board formed after RFEF President Luis Rubiales' suspension by soccer's world governing body over the allegedly non-consensual kiss during the World Cup victory celebration two weeks ago terminated Vilda's contract.

In a statement that gave no reason for his dismissal and did not mention Hermoso, Rubiales or the scandal, RFEF thanked 42-year-old Vilda for his "extraordinary sporting legacy".

"The coach has been key to the remarkable growth of women's football and leaves Spain as world champions and second in the FIFA rankings," the RFEF statement said.

The furore involving Rubiales has quickly spiralled into a national debate over women's rights and sexist behaviour.

In a separate statement by interim President Pedro Rocha, the RFEF apologised for Rubiales' "inappropriate conduct".

"The damage caused to Spanish football, to Spanish sport, to Spanish society and the values of football and sport as a whole have been enormous," the three-page statement signed by Rocha said.

Vilda, considered a close ally of Rubiales, had been under fire since last year after 15 players staged a mutiny calling for his resignation because of inadequate coaching methods and calling for conditions to match those of the men's squad.

Most of the players involved were cut from the squad even as some demands were met.

Danae Boronat, a sports presenter who interviewed Spain's leading female players for her book "Don't Call Them Girls, Call Them Footballers", said players accused Vilda of micromanaging, such as instructing senior players what to say in interviews.

Vilda could not immediately be reached for comment. Rubiales did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vilda and Luis de la Fuente, the men's national team manager, applauded Rubiales when he refused to resign on Aug. 25 but later issued statements condemning his behaviour.

Rubiales had praised Vilda for the World Cup triumph and offered him a new four-year contract, increasing his annual salary to 500,000 euros ($536,000) from 160,000 euros.

Spain's top 58 female players said they would not play for the national team under the existing leadership. An RFEF source told Reuters last week that players were now being consulted to see whether the removal of Vilda would change that.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas and David Latona; additional reporting by Inti Landauro; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Christian Radnedge, Ken Ferris and Nick Macfie)