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Alexia Putellas gives powerful speech on fighting abuse: ‘We won’t fail you’

Alexia Putellas, Jenni Hermoso and Irene Paredes celebrate Spain's World Cup victory. (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Alexia Putellas and the rest of the Spain women’s national team are aiming to inspire change beyond soccer as the fallout from their World Cup controversy continues.

Luis Rubiales resigned as president of the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) earlier this week as the result of mounting pressure from his behavior at the 2023 World Cup final. Following Spain’s 1-0 win over England, Rubiales kissed star midfielder Jenni Hermoso, a gesture which she has maintained came without her consent.

Hermoso’s teammates have stood with her in the wake of the incident, which created an international uproar and has led to multiple investigations into Rubiales.

So when FC Barcelona Femení became the first sports team to win the Medal of Honor from the Catalan parliament, Putellas used the platform to call attention to their fight for change.

“We are the first men’s or women’s team to be distinguished with this Medal of Honour — this would have been unthinkable five, 15, 20 years ago, but it has happened,” she said in her acceptance speech Wednesday. “This has not been achieved from scratch, so I would like to thank all those pioneers who, before our arrival, promoted women’s sport at Barca or in other organizations. This medal also belongs to them, we are very aware of that.”

Launched in 2000, previous winners include recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, former presidents and soccer manager Pep Guardiola, the only previous winner related to sport.

Barcelona received the award for their success as four-time Spanish league winners and two-time Champions League winners, but also because of the impact that they have had on sport in Catalonia. Twice, the team has filled Camp Nou and broken women’s attendance records.

“At Barca, we are helping to build a fairer, more equal society with more opportunities through football. Our efforts and our victories are making us a point of reference for many children, young people and adults,” Putellas said. “Our commitment to women’s sport and society is unquestionable, but we need more help to keep growing, so that this is not just a fad. And here, if I may, I would like to demand more support for women’s football, more and better facilities, more pitches and more investment at grassroots level.”

Noting that women in sports are “here to stay,” Putellas also noted a commitment to “help those that come after us.”

“There is still a long way to go, as we are seeing these days with the serious situation we are facing with the [RFEF] and the changes we are all asking for so that no woman, inside or outside football, ever has to live a situation of disrespect or abuse,” she said.

“We need consensus, courage and leadership from the institutions. We will not stop here. Those who fought before us deserve it, we deserve it for the effort we make every day and all the girls and boys who today dream of being like us deserve it. We will not fail you.”