Though Vilda had little to do with that controversy — he initially appeared supportive of Rubiales but later changed course — and had been praised by Spain’s soccer federation as “key to the remarkable growth of women’s football” in that country, his methods in the run-up to the tournament had long been questioned.
In August 2022, one year before the World Cup, several Spain players confronted Vilda about his controlling ways during a training camp.
“He would ask players to keep their room doors open until midnight and check who was in which room,” the Athletic reported. “When coming back from a walk outside, they would be asked who they’d been with and be requested to show the contents of shopping bags if they brought some back.”
The next month, 15 Spain players emailed the country’s soccer federation to say they would not pay for the national team as long as Vilda remained its coach. RFEF did not bow to their demands, and only three of the 15 would end up on Spain’s World Cup roster. Vilda would not go into specifics about why only three of the 15 were allowed to return.
“Honestly, I don’t think that is what matters; what matters is that they are here, which means they are committed to the national team and they can compete at the World Cup. I don’t want to talk about that process,” he said. “There have been conversations, but those will remain private as always. These are the decisions that have been taken. Some [of the 15] are here, and I am convinced they will work to be part of the group and that they will fight for the biggest thing there is in sport, which is to represent for your country. The 30 who come are sportspeople, and they want to build a strong group; they want the best players alongside them. Living sport unites you. I am convinced there will be concordance, calm and harmony.”
Spain went on to finish second in its group at the World Cup, then won thrilling games in the quarterfinals and semifinals to advance to the championship, where it defeated England.
Shortly after that victory, all 23 members of Spain’s national team along with 58 other current and former players signed a statement saying they would not play for the national team again “if the current management continues.” RFEF fired Vilda soon after, praising him for building up the Spanish women’s soccer program but not mentioning the controversies that had engulfed the team going into the World Cup.
Vilda, who had been in his position since 2015, said he “did not expect” to be fired and “didn’t see my dismissal as deserved.”
“Personally, I do believe that they have been unfair to me,” Vilda was quoted by Spanish publication Marca as saying of RFEF officials.
Morocco was one of the surprises of this year’s World Cup, advancing to the round of 16 in its maiden tournament voyage after defeating South Korea and Colombia in the group stage. But the country’s soccer federation did not explain why it replaced its French coach, Reynald Pedros, with Vilda, other than saying in a statement that Pedros’s “duties ended.”
“The book closes and I am very disappointed not to continue my mission with the Moroccan national A team,” Pedros wrote on social media Thursday. “But I’m so proud to have put this team on top of the world.”