Coach Jorge Vilda (C), who was fired Tuesday, led Spain to a Women's World Cup final win over England on Aug. 20 in Sydney. Photo by Bianca De Marchi/EPA-EFE
Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Spain fired women's soccer coach Jorge Vilda on Tuesday, ending a tenure that included this year's World Cup title that became mired in controversy, including player boycotts and a schism within the Royal Spanish Football Federation.
The federation said the decision was "one of the first renovation measures" announced by Pedro Rocha, who is serving as interim president amid Luis Rubiales' hiatus.
Last week, FIFA issued a three-month suspension to Rubiales, who gave an unwanted kiss to midfielder Jenni Hermoso during the World Cup trophy presentation.
In a statement Tuesday, Rocha issued an apology and criticized Rubiales for "totally unacceptable behavior."
"The damage caused to Spanish football, Spanish sport, Spanish society and to the set of values of soccer and sport has been enormous," Rocha said.
"The [federation] wants to transmit, to the whole of society and to the whole of football world, its greatest regret for what happened, which has tarnished our team, our football and our society."
The federation, which initially threatened legal action against Hermoso, accusing her of lying about the exchange, deleted those communications from its website. The group said it is cooperating with investigations into Rubiales, including one opened by the Spanish Prosecutors Office.
Fallout from Rubiales' World Cup kiss and refusal to resign, despite rampant criticism, included dozens of players saying they would not again play for the national team if the management structure stayed intact.
Last week, regional presidents of the Royal Spanish Football Federation called for Rubiales to resign immediately. Four assistants from the senior team resigned last month.
Vilda previously was the subject of controversy last September, when 15 players wrote a letter to the federation criticizing his coaching style and refusing to play for the national team while he remained coach.
Three players from the group -- Aitana Bonmati, Mariona Caldentey and Ona Batlle -- appeared in the 2023 World Cup.
"We value his [Vilda's] impeccable personal and sporting conduct, being a key player in the remarkable growth of women's football in Spain," the federation said Tuesday. "During his long period, Vilda has been a promoter of the values of respect and fair play in football."
The federation also expressed gratitude to Vilda for his professionalism and dedication.
"The [federation] is left with an extraordinary sporting legacy thanks to the implementation of a recognized game model and a methodology that has been the engine of growth for all the women's categories of the national team," the federation said.
Spain, now the No. 2 team in the world,. is scheduled to face Sweden in a UEFA Nations League game Sept. 22 in Gothenburg, Sweden.