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Spain’s women players want to ‘just stick to football’ after they ended their boycott of the national team that started after former Spanish Federation (RFEF) boss Luis Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips following their World Cup triumph, midfielder Aitana Bonmati said.

UEFA Women’s Player of the Year and World Cup MVP Bonmati acknowledged that she and her team mates are relieved that they can now concentrate on their day job following ‘an exhausting’ month-long standoff that ended last Wednesday after the RFEF agreed to make ‘immediate and profound changes’ to its structure.

They had time for only one training session before travelling to Gothenburg, where they battled to a cathartic 3-2 win over top ranked Sweden in their Nations League Group A showdown on Friday.

‘We are setting an example on a sporting and social levels, that men and women should be treated equally,’ Bonmati told a press conference at Cordoba on Monday, on the eve of their match against Switzerland.

‘The first few days were complicated, with stress, anxiety, but as the days have gone by things have changed. We have now been able to focus on football, which is what we want.

Spain star Aitana Bonmati said players could ‘focus on football’ after ending their boycott 

Former president Luis Rubiales resigned in the wake of him kissing Jenni Hermoso after Spain won the Women’s World Cup, plunging the federation into controversy 

Spain returned to action in a 3-2 win over Sweden having agreed to play for the team again

‘We want to get back to normality knowing that there are many things to improve, that have been discussed, and that there are commitments on all sides to make this go better and to leave a good legacy and good conditions for all generations to come.’

Rubiales’ actions not only overshadowed the team’s World Cup triumph, but snowballed into a ‘Me Too’ moment that had been building for years as the players had been trying to combat sexism and achieve parity with their male peers for nearly a decade.

That included two dressing room rebellions that ended the international careers of several players before they finally accomplished change thanks to the latest boycott.

‘(Gender equality) is a global struggle and all the players feel it is a little bit our own,’ Bonmati said.

Alexia Putellas (right) and Irene Paredes (left) said they had to ‘fight to be heard’ during tense negotiations with the RFEF

‘We are here to play football but we have a loudspeaker and a responsibility to leave football and women in a better place than we found it.’

It came after Spain star Alexia Putellas and Irene Paredes said they had to ‘fight to be heard’ after ending their boycott of the team following stern negotiations with the RFEF in recent weeks. 

Putellas said the controversy around kiss-gate – and Rubiales’ initial refusal to resign – was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ that prompted the players to boycott playing for the team until leadership changes were made at the federation.

Following negotiations that went on into the early hours of Wednesday, a majority of players agreed to end their boycott.

‘We had been demanding that they listen to us for quite some time because we already knew that there had been systematic discrimination with the women’s (team) for many decades,’ Putellas said at a press conference ahead of a Nation’s League match against Sweden on Friday.

‘We had to fight a lot to be heard.’

Spain’s women football players have called out decades of ‘systematic discrimination’ 

Paredes said the players could see there were already improvements being made but that ‘we still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.’

She said the players were aware that this was to moment to strike while they ‘held the loudspeaker’ and that their stand could help other women suffering discrimination.

‘We have many people behind us, many colleagues from other teams, colleagues from other sports and women in their jobs, in their lives who are suffering similar cases and we want this to be a point… where they look at each other and can raise their voices and say this has happened to me too,’ Paredes said.

Paredes said the players had felt alone during much of the standoff and that while they were grateful for the Spanish government’s intervention this week, she criticised them for being slow to weigh in.

Between six and nine RFEF’ senior officials will be invited to leave their jobs or will be sacked as part of a deal to end the boycott, a federation source told Reuters. 

Rubiales, who was suspended by FIFA from his roles at the RFEF and the vice presidency of UEFA, eventually resigned as he faces investigation by a court for assault and coercion over the kiss. Rubiales claimed that Hermoso has consented to the kiss but she denied this.

Jorge Vilda, the coach who guided Spain to glory in the Women’s World Cup, was dismissed earlier this month.

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