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Sarina Wiegman shines light on Spain in UEFA Coach of the Year speech

England head coach Sarina Wiegman honored the Spanish players in her speech after winning the 2022-23 UEFA Women’s Coach of the Year award. (Valerio Pennicino/UEFA via Getty Images)

Sarina Wiegman won the 2022-23 UEFA Coach of the Year award Thursday. In her acceptance speech, the England head coach threw her support behind the Spanish women’s national team.

Spain defeated England, 1-0, to win the 2023 World Cup title. But controversy has overshadowed the victory, as Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales has come under fire for his nonconsensual kiss of star midfielder Jenni Hermoso during the championship celebration.

Wiegman called it “really special” to be voted UEFA Coach of the Year, particularly by her colleagues. She also won the award last year after leading England to its first-ever Euros title. In her speech, she thanked her team and everyone from the English Football Association that supported the Lionesses as they made their World Cup run.

“But it also feels a little different,” she said. “We all know the issues around the Spanish team.”

Since the World Cup, Rubiales has been suspended by FIFA, and regional leaders from the Spanish federation (RFEF) have called for his resignation. Spain’s World Cup players have refused to return to the national team without a change in leadership.

With Rubiales’ refusal to resign, the conflict has dragged on, pulling attention from the players’ accomplishments and highlighting the ways in which society – and women’s sports – still must improve.

“It really hurts me, as a coach, as a mother of two daughters, as a wife and as a human being,” Wiegman said. “It shows the game has grown so much, but there’s also still a long way to go in women’s football and in society. And I would like to dedicate this award to the Spanish team. The team that played in the World Cup such great football that everyone enjoys.

“This team deserves to be celebrated and deserves to be listened to. And I’m going to give them, again, a big applause.”

Spain’s Aitana Bonmatí, who won the Golden Ball award for the World Cup, took home the award as the 2022-23 UEFA Player of the Year. She won the World Cup with Spain and the Champions League title with FC Barcelona.