Spain beat England in the final in Sydney on Aug. 20, with Barcelona midfielder Bonmatí awarded the Golden Ball, but the conduct of former Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales after the final whistle ignited calls for change.
Rubiales, who stepped down from his role on Sept. 10, is facing criminal charges for an unsolicited kiss on Jenni Hermoso‘s lips, while he was also condemned for grabbing his crotch, hugging and kissing some players and carrying another over his shoulder.
“The fact that our World Cup [success] has been tarnished will have been worth it, if it serves to bring about definite improvements,” Bonmatí, 25, said in an interview with La Sexta TV.
“We want professional treatment and what was seen was not professional at all. We had been asking for change and we were very far from being a global example. For my part, they were difficult moments, with nervousness and anxiety.”
Spain’s women had pushed for change at the RFEF in September 2022 when 15 players made themselves unavailable for selection until certain improvements were met.
Only three of the 15 returned from their self-imposed exile to play at the World Cup.
The demands for improved conditions for women returned minutes after the final in Sydney because of Rubiales’ inappropriate behaviour.
After Rubiales initially refused to resign following his conduct, 81 current and retired Spain internationals declared they would not play for the national team again under his leadership.
Even after his resignation and the dismissal of head coach Jorge Vilda, players again demanded that significant conditions needed to be met.
“They promised us changes,” Bonmatí added. “Some of them were made for and during the World Cup but others not. We felt that every time we got a call-up from the national team instead of enjoying it, we suffered. We wanted the same professional treatment that we get in our respective clubs. The difference was very big.”
Last month players, including Bonmatí, that reported for duty with Spain’s women’s national team did so while a threat of a fine or a domestic ban hung over them if they didn’t show up.
“We were forced by law to go to a place that we did not want to go to if some changes did not occur.” Bonmatí said. “I don’t understand that there is a law that forces you to go with the national team if one at a certain time doesn’t feel well to do so.”
Players in the professional top tier of women’s football in Spain last month called off a strike after reaching an agreement about minimum wages.
The minimum annual salary established for this season is €21,000, which could increase to €23,000 ($22,111) depending on the growth of the competition’s commercial income.
“The inequality is obvious,” Bonmatí said. “We do not ask to be paid the same as men because we do not believe it has to be that way, but we want equal conditions.
“Sometimes we go to football pitches, and I ask myself ‘how can we play here?’ Our integrity as a footballer is in danger.”
Bonmatí, who is favourite to win the Women’s Ballon d’Or, hopes that Spain can make improvement and mirror the professional approach that has been implemented in England.
“There is still a long way to go,” Bonmatí said. “We have a great example, not far from home, in England. Let’s try to imitate it and learn from them.”