Spain’s World Cup-winning women’s team got back to being football players.
A 3-2 victory over Sweden in Gothenburg, in a women’s Nations League match, — secured by a penalty with virtually the last kick of the game — was Spain’s first match since capturing the biggest prize in women’s soccer last month in Australia.
That achievement ultimately was tarnished by a sexism scandal sparked by the former Spanish football federation president, Luis Rubiales, kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the World Cup awards ceremony.
The fallout has been far-reaching, remaining high up the global news agenda and continuing right up to the eve of the match when a deal was reached between the players, federation and government mediators that Spain’s players believe will lead to real reform inside the beleaguered federation and mark a turning point in the fight for equality.
To get to that point, the players were engaged in through-the-night meetings and constant telephone calls, all the while staying under massive external scrutiny that hardly provided the best preparation for a Nations League match against the world’s top-ranked team.
Still, they showed the kind of battling qualities that have characterised the off-the-field fight against their federation by coming from behind at the Ullevi stadium, clinching the win when Mariona Caldentey converted a spot kick in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time. The final whistle blew immediately after the resulting restart and Spain’s players celebrated wildly.
“They have been difficult days for everyone,” said Athenea del Castillo, who scored Spain’s first goal, “but we have shown that we are a true team that wants to represent its country and that is what it is about — fighting until the end.”