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Irene Paredes (left) and Alexia Putellas of Spain's women's team attend a press conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Barcelona: Spain players Alexia Putellas and Irene Paredes said Thursday the majority of the squad agreed to stay to advance change within the Spanish football federation, after they were called up to play for the women’s national team against their will.

New coach Montse Tome selected a squad which was almost all on strike for upcoming Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland, with players only reporting for duty Tuesday because they felt threatened by potential sanctions.

The Spanish government intervened and held overnight crisis talks with the players and the federation, with a deal eventually reached Wednesday morning which saw 21 players stay and two depart.

“We decided to stay, not exactly because we are comfortable — given the whole situation all month, and how we were called up,” Barcelona defender Paredes told a news conference in Gothenburg.

“But it’s what we think we have to do, for the deals that were made to happen, and for all this to advance.”

Two-time Ballon d’Or winner Putellas believed the meeting could be a decisive moment in women’s sport.

“It could be a point where there’s a before and after, I really think so,” said Putellas.

“I believe that the agreements that we stayed up all night for, will make our sport and women’s sport, and in consequence society, a lot better.”

Burden of responsibility

Paredes also said the squad felt a burden of responsibility because if they refused to participate, then U23 players may have had to fill in for them.

“It’s like passing a bomb to players with maybe less experience,” continued Paredes.

“All we want to do is play football in dignified conditions where we are respected. That’s why we are trying to change things so in some (future) moment, all that the players have to do is play.”

Spanish football has been rocked over the last month after the disgraced former president of their football federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, forcibly kissed midfielder Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s Women’s World Cup victory on August 20.

Rubiales resigned after a worldwide backlash against his actions and controversial women’s team coach Jorge Vilda was sacked, replaced by Tome.

After almost all the striking players agreed to play, the federation said they were accelerating changes asked for by the players, and sacked general secretary Andreu Camps.

Putellas said players turned up at the meeting angry, not just because they were called up against their will, but after being worn down over the years.

“We were detecting over many decades — too many — systematic discrimination against the women’s team,” she said.

“We had to fight a lot to be listened to. This wears you down, in a way that we don’t want to happen.”

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Spain's women's football team head coach Montserrat Tome arrives to a press conference in Gothenburg. Image Credit: AFP

Tome future

Spanish media reports claim one of the squad’s demands is that coach Tome is dismissed after their next two Nations League matches, on Friday against Sweden and Tuesday against Switzerland.

However the coach said she had the confidence to continue and that no player had told her they wanted her gone.

“I have confidence, confidence in the job, desire that this is all solved, and desire to work. That’s what I have,” she told a news conference.

Putellas also denied the players had asked for any coach to be sacked.

“We’re not qualified to kick anyone out ... we just want to play, and score,” she said, regarding sporting decisions.

However Putellas also noted there should be “zero tolerance” for anyone “who has hidden, applauded or incited abuse”.

Showing support

Sweden have shown the Spanish squad their support throughout the week and continued to do so ahead of the clash in Gothenburg.

“I feel proud that they’re taking on the fight, they’re not giving up,” said Sweden midfielder Kosovare Asllani on Thursday.

“They definitely have Swedish support and (backing) from the rest of the world. Because the world is watching, you have to make these changes.”

Real Madrid midfielder Asllani said the problem of inequality went beyond sport.

“It’s so important to get more women into power positions and where you can create change for a more equal future,” she added.

“(There’s) so much work to be done still, even in Sweden, I would say, but we are a little bit more ahead than maybe a country like Spain ... it’s not just a sport question, it’s a society question.”