In protest of the sexism crisis that has enveloped the Spanish football organization, Spain’s world champions and their Swedish opponents hoisted aloft a banner with the words “It’s over” on Friday.
Mariona Caldentey struck a penalty six minutes into additional time to give Spain a 3-2 victory in Gothenburg.
The pre-match protest occurred as Spain returned to action for the first time since winning the World Cup, during which former federation leader Luis Rubiales kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips.
The 22 players held aloft a banner with the Spanish words “Se Acabo” (“It’s Over”), claiming that their fight against chauvinism and sexual assault represented “the global fight” for equality between men and women.
Just before the start of Friday’s Nations League game, the Spanish ladies lifted their fists to expose wristbands bearing protest and support messages.
Most had the same “Se Acabo” message, while some simply had “Jenni” or the number 10 on Hermoso’s jersey written on them.
Hermoso was not called up for the game by new coach Montse Tome to “protect her”.
Nine of the 23 world champions who refused to return to the team since the Rubiales scandal broke, demanding profound changes within the Spanish Football Federation, finally started at kick-off on Friday.
“It’s a very positive victory that manages to make you forget the days we’ve had,” said Tome.
“It also means that we have players with incredible talent. They love what they do. What they know how to do is play soccer, and we have to make them feel they can really concentrate on the game.”
Magdalena Eriksson gave the hosts a 23rd minute lead.
Athenea del Castillo levelled seven minutes before half time. Eva Navarro put Spain ahead in the 77th minute but Lina Hurtig replied for Sweden.
Amanda Ilestedt of Sweden was shown a straight red card five minutes into added time conceding the penalty that Caldentey converted.
“It’s been a difficult few days for all of us, but we’ve shown that we’re a real team who want to represent our country and fight to the end,” said Real Madrid striker Del Castillo.
“That’s what counts. I hope that the changes underway will continue and that everything will go well.”
“We were tired and didn’t sleep well over the last few days, but I’m satisfied with the work we’ve done.”