UEFA Women's Nations League: The fragility of Jenni Hermoso: “It hurt me and it still hurts me” | Soccer | Sports

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Become an icon of Spanish football, Jenni Hermoso's story has many nuances and edges. Like her painful and inspiring journey from Sydney to Seville, passing through Madrid and Tigres, in Mexico. From the World Cup final to the Nations League final that takes place this Wednesday in La Cartuja (against France, at 7:00 p.m., on La1) and in which Spain pursues another title, continental this time. In these months, from August to February, the soccer player, 33 years old and originally from the humble Madrid neighborhood of Carabanchel, has starred on magazine covers (few because she has not been widely spread among the press), television programs (she was even invited by TVE1 to ring the New Year's Eve Chimes) and has been included in a list of the most influential women in the world in 2023, along with 25 other figures of the stature of Margot Robbie, Beyoncé, Coco Gauff or Ursula von der Leyen. But it hasn't been all smiles (his is wide) and sparkles. “I am lucky to play another final after six very long months. Today I enjoy football and matches with the national team. I compete for Spain to win another tournament. I'm happy. “Football continues to give me the life I need,” she said this Tuesday from Seville.

Jenni is, according to various sources, a fragile woman, permeable to external criticism and the advice of her friends; She is also outgoing and sweet, smiling. She is a simple person, proud to be from the neighborhood. She comes from a humble family, with the right training and without cultural concerns. She has been feeding off the fame that soccer has given her. “She floats through life, she is happy and accepts what is coming,” says a voice linked to the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). Until August 20, until that final that Spain won and that was soon stained by a reprehensible gesture, Hermoso “had a very good relationship with Rubiales, of bullying and nonsense,” the same sources say. What's more, she, who was one of the first to ask to return to the national team after the collective resignation of the 15, felt supported and protected by the president and her entourage. Perhaps because of all that, it was difficult for her to accept that it was neither tolerable nor appropriate for the then head of the RFEF to plant a kiss on her nose in the middle of the medal ceremony for the world champion. But what she didn't see, despite the discomfort she felt from that unwanted kiss, despite that “well okay” that she said moments later in a live broadcast on social media, her colleagues saw. Her friends. Especially two of the team's veterans: Alexia Putellas (to whom she had been very close and whose relationship she revived in Australia and New Zealand) and Irene Paredes, sitting next to each other on the plane back to Spain.

Putellas and Paredes quickly assumed two things: that this gesture was intolerable, a sign of sexual aggression and abuse of power; but also that denouncing it forcefully would help them reinforce their message and the complaints that a year before had gone almost unnoticed: that they worked in an unhealthy and unprofessional environment; that they did not like the ways of the coach, Jorge Vilda (the one to whom Rubiales made an obscene gesture from the box: that one “for your balls”) and that the federation needed a change of scenery and a shake-up to its structures and values. They are still at it. Although, as a consequence, both Rubiales and Vilda have already left through the door, in addition to some other charges pointed out by the soccer players, who, led by the two veterans and in the name of Hermoso, gave a resounding image of unity and managed to shake the foundations from the football city of Las Rozas.

But those first days of training with the national team after the tsunami caused by Rubiales' kiss, those of zero tolerance and #itwasfinished advanced without Jenni Hermoso, discarded from the first call of the new coach, Montse Tomé, who said she wanted to protect her. . “Protect me from what or who?” she responded. Her absence also affected the locker room. And in her relationship with Tomé, she included her again for the next date. There were awkward conversations. That have worked. “I'm happy,” Jenni insists today. And she explains what her return was like: “I was clear. And I already communicated my part to them. I never understood it, I will never understand it. She hurt me and continues to hurt me; and she's going to stay there, but it's over. I'm still here, I'm still defending this shield and this team. For me the most important thing is that I can continue defending this shirt.”

Hermoso, who had denounced Rubiales, – he will be judged for that non-consensual kiss –, lived an ordeal between those celebrations in Sydney, bottle of cava in hand, and the final matches that ended up bringing the Spanish team to this Nations League final. League. To the alleged pressures – which must also be proven before the judge – from Vilda or Albert Luque, the federation's football director, have been added the messages and criticism through social networks, and the difficulty of putting oneself under the control again. focus only for sporting reasons.

The public denunciation and the subsequent crisis in the federation have taken their toll on Hermoso, who has sometimes become a puppet for the cause.

He began to free himself in the locker room. Little by little. The first time she returned to Las Rozas last summer she looked quite distressed. “She was not the usual Jenni,” says an authoritative voice from the locker room. She knew that she was the focus of attention and she was not very clear how to act, or whether or not she should speak to the media. “The truth is that she gives me something…, I don't really know what I have to do,” she pointed out at that time. And she only spoke on television after scoring the goal against Italy that was worth the ticket to this Final Four that must be decided this Wednesday against France.

In these weeks more has been exposed. Like after the victory against the Netherlands in the semifinals and the qualification for Paris 2024, which the Madrid player sealed with a great goal. “I have screamed a lot, I have released a lot of emotions on a very important day. Since we were little we dreamed of something like this, being in a Games,” the 10 of La Roja started, which minutes before opened its arms to take the encouragement of the fans of La Cartuja, where her family and friends were, also the hug of all the companions on the mat. She was moved when she remembered it. “It's hard for me to cry, but when I let it out… it's because I have a lot inside,” she confessed. And when they asked him to whom he dedicated the goal, he responded with a speech of personal vindication: “I have thought about myself, in the time that I have been working mentally and physically to play a high-level match, I dedicate the goal and the victory to myself.” , he stressed.

This Tuesday he came to the fore again. And she acknowledged that the World Cup changed her. As a person and as a footballer: “It has been a long, hard process of understanding many things. I have learned a lot, I am a stronger girl. “I feel proud of everything I have done today.”

Jenni Hermoso smiles in the La Cartuja press room.Marcelo del Pozo (REUTERS)

Jenni is a special player. “With innate quality and a very differential style of play with the ball. She is very difficult to defend one on one and in small spaces. She protects the ball very well and partners with great skill. In addition, she has a good last pass and goal”, a national team scout defines her. Federal sources say that being in Mexico suits him very well. She is happier. She left Barcelona in the summer of 2022 with less complicity in the locker room than she had had until then and went to Mexico. “My priority is to be happy and to be valued,” she said. After that abrupt departure from the Barça club and after missing the European Championship in July of the same year due to a knee injury, she wanted to get involved and return to Spain, before any of the 15. She played and won the World Cup. She became the image of Spanish football. She had some slumps, but new routines and a magnificent state of form have brought her to this other final. She is “the best midfielder in the world,” Vilda even said of her before the World Cup, the team's top scorer and the only one to reach the 50-goal barrier.

“Versatile on the field”, this is how her teammates see her, who enjoy her joy at the concentrations – she is in charge of playing the music and the first one willing to have a dance – and her football on the green: “She has a left foot.” spectacular and can play wherever he wants because he has plenty of quality,” says Olga Carmona. “Like the best, she fits in anywhere. She is incredible,” adds Misa, one of her great friends in her locker room, in addition to Alexia or Laia Codina. “He provides a lot of security, he has a lot of mobility, the last pass, he keeps the ball. She gives us a lot of variety in the game,” Alba Redondo intervenes. “She has immense quality, goal, pass, vision, she holds the ball, she is a great player. It is an honor to have her with us,” closes Tere Abelleira.

His career goes hand in hand with those of Putellas and Paredes. They are the internationals with the most matches: 113 matches for Alexia; 111, Jenni; 102, Irene. The dinosaurs, they call themselves. It all started with them, the first qualifications for World Cups and Euro Cups nine years ago; and this revolution that will culminate today who knows if with another title. “If we win, Spain will have made history again, let people talk about it, let the footballers continue moving forward, looking to the future. And that young women see us as an example to follow.” It is Jenni Hermoso's wish.

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