Thursday, July 18

Spain Women’s Team Will Play After Talks in Wake of World Cup Kiss

Nearly a month after Spain’s World Cup-winning women’s national soccer team was thrown into turmoil over a forcible kiss, the players have agreed to come back and play their scheduled high-profile matches in the coming days.

The players’ participation had been in doubt after many of them demanded an overhaul of Spain’s soccer federation to guarantee a “safe place where women are respected.” In addition to the furor over the kiss, by Spain’s top soccer official, Luis Rubiales, after the team’s World Cup victory in Australia on Aug. 20, the players had voiced longstanding complaints of sexism and of unequal treatment compared with their male counterparts.

Mr. Rubiales has since stepped down over the episode, and the team’s coach, Jorge Vilda, was fired amid complaints of outdated training methods and controlling behavior. But the players continue to push for more changes within the federation as well as demands like equal pay and better-quality sports facilities.

And Wednesday night, the soccer federation posted a statement on its website confirming that the first of those changes had been made.

The statement read: “The Royal Spanish Football Federation has today dispensed with the services of its general secretary, Andreu Camps,” who was nominated to the role in 2018 and was a staunch ally of Mr. Rubiales.

Earlier on Wednesday, after a meeting of players, government officials and soccer federation bosses that went on through the night, the president of the state-run National Sports Council said that 21 of the 23 players on the roster for U.E.F.A.’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland over the coming week had agreed to play.

The Nations League matches are particularly important because they determine which three European countries can compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

“Twenty-one players are going to Sweden,” said the National Sports Council president, Víctor Francos, adding that “there are two players who don’t feel they have the spirit or the strength” to take the field.

Under Spanish law, players can face fines of up to 30,000 euros, about $32,100, or suspensions of up to five years for refusing to take the field for the national team without a valid reason. Mr. Francos had warned this week that any players who defied the roster could be penalized.

But on Wednesday morning he offered assurances at a news conference that “neither the federation nor the sports council” would initiate “a sanctioning process” against players who decided not to represent their country.

Amanda Gutiérrez, the president of the women’s soccer union, FUTPRO, applauded the government’s commitment to addressing discrimination in the sport and the “reconciliation of positions” between the players and the federation.

Speaking on behalf of the players, who must now focus on preparing for their match against Sweden on Friday, Ms. Gutiérrez said that a commission would be set up involving the government, the federation and the players to monitor the agreement reached on Wednesday.

“It is the beginning of a long road,” she said, with consequences for “future generations.”

The two players who did not agree to play in the matches — Mapi León, a defender, and Patri Guijarro, a midfielder — were among the 15 players involved in a rebellion last year against Mr. Vilda’s behavior. A dozen of them subsequently said they wanted to rejoin the team, and three were invited back, but neither Ms. Leon nor Ms. Guijarro asked to return.

Ms. Leon said on Wednesday, “We are happy because changes are being made.” But Ms. Guijarro said, “We’re not mentally prepared to be here.”

The emergency meeting that led to the agreement took place at the Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Hotel in Valencia, where the players had been summoned on Tuesday by the team’s new coach, Montse Tomé — the first woman to be chosen for the post — to prepare for the match against Sweden.

Earlier in the week, Ms. Tomé had drawn up a roster for the match, even though the federation had not met the players’ demands.

The roster did not include Jennifer Hermoso, the player whom Mr. Rubiales forcibly kissed on camera after the team captured the World Cup title. She filed a sexual-assault complaint against him this month, which cleared the way for prosecutors to open a case against him over the kiss.

At the news conference, Rafa del Amo, the president of women’s soccer within the national federation, said of Ms. Hermoso, “I think that she has to be protected from pressure.”

Many players had been upset over being included on the roster before their demands were met.

When Misa Rodríguez, a goalkeeper, turned up for duty on Tuesday morning, reporters asked her whether she was happy with the roster.

“No,” she replied.

Most of her teammates declined to give remarks upon arriving at the venue.

At the news conference on Wednesday morning, Mr. Francos offered assurances that the federation would immediately take steps to appease its players.

“I’ve debated many things, many decisions that you will see shortly,” Mr. del Amo said.

Both he and Mr. Francos said that the team’s new coach, Ms. Tomé, would remain in her role, a situation that had been in doubt because of lack of dialogue with players before the roster announcement and over support that she expressed for Mr. Rubiales on Aug. 25, when he said that he would not resign and railed against “false feminism.”

Miquel Iceta, the minister for culture and sports, welcomed the agreement reached between the players and the soccer federation. “We want a principle of trust between the players and the Royal Spanish Football Federation to be re-established,” he said at a midmorning news conference.

To that end, the government’s National Sports Council said that legislation would be drafted including gender-equality policies, pay equity and quality sports facilities for women’s soccer.