Jorge Vilda
Spain's sacked women's coach Jorge Vilda AFP / FRANCK FIFE

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has sacked its controversial manager, Jorge Vilda, just weeks after he led the team to victory at the FIFA Women's World Cup. Sadly, the triumph was overshadowed by the controversy surrounding RFEF president Luis Rubiales as well as the players' boycott and previous mutiny against Vilda.

As a result of Vilda's sacking, Spain's women's national football team appointed its first ever female head coach. Hours after announcing Vilda's fate, the RFEF confirmed that his assistant manager, Montse Tomé, will serve as his replacement.

The move to hire a female head coach is being seen as a step towards creating a safe environment for the female national team players, especially after the Rubiales controversy. It man be remembered that the RFEF president was recently suspended by FIFA after Spain forward Jennifer Hermoso released a statement confirming that she did not consent to being kissed on the lips by Rubiales during the awarding ceremony of the Women's World Cup held in Sydney, Australia.

Millions from around the world watched as Rubiales hugged each of the players tightly after they received their medals from FIFA president Gianni Infantino. They were then congratulated by Her Majesty Queen Letizia and Infanta Sofia of Spain before Rubiales hugged each of them and planted kisses on their cheeks. However, when it came to Hermoso, he grabbed her face and kissed her squarely in the lips, something she later claimed was "not to her liking."

Tomé will be the first woman in charge of the women's national team

That kiss led to a massive wave of protests around the world, with the Spanish version of the #MeToo movement also exploding on social media under the hashtag #SeAcabo (It's Over).

After Hermoso's union filed a complaint on her behalf, 81 players, past and present, also declared a boycott stating that they won't play for the national team unless Vilda is removed. The RFEF appears to have heard their calls, and the controversial manager has now been removed from his position. Tomé is expected to take over immediately, with her debut match in charge scheduled on September 22 against Sweden.

Vilda was expected to keep his job under Rubiales, with the latter expressing massive support for the former manager even after fifteen players staged a mutiny against him in September last year. A letter was sent by these players to the federation at that time, asking Vilda to be removed for the health and well-being of the players. However, their protests fell on deaf ears and the manager was able to keep his position. Only three of those players were included in the World Cup winning squad: Mariona Caldentey, Aitana Bonmatí and Ona Batlle.

During their successful World Cup run, Vilda was seen being iced out and isolated by the squad on a number of occasions, particularly when they celebrated their victory against the Netherlands and Sweden in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.

The RFEF confirms major internal restructuring

The federation thanked Vilda for his service, particularly his part in the team's recent success. In a statement, the RFEF said that Vilda was "key to the notable growth of women's football and leaves Spain as world champions and second in the FIFA rankings."

"RFEF appreciates his work at the head of the national team and his responsibilities as the maximum sporting figure of the women's national teams, as well as the successes reaped during his term, crowned with the recent achievement of the World Cup," the statement added.

However, despite the World Cup success, interim president Pedro Rocha, who has taken over from the suspended Rubiales, is determined to restructure the embattled organisation.

Rubiales could no longer save Vilda or himself

The sacking comes despite the fact that Rubiales had earlier expressed his intention to offer Vilda a new four-year contract to manage the women's team. He saw Vilda as someone who had gone through the same situation that he now finds himself in, calling himself the victim of a false narrative.

Rubiales refused to resign stating that the kiss on Hermoso was mutual and spontaneous and that he is being targeted by "false feminists." However, FIFA has now opened disciplinary proceedings against him, and the RFEF has also activated its sexual violence protocol after receiving Hermoso's statement.