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Spain’s women’s national soccer team embroiled in dispute over coach

Patri Guijarro is one of 15 members of Spain's women's soccer team who sent identical e-mails asking not to be called up until issues with the team's coaching have been resolved.Naomi Baker/Getty

More than half of the Spain women’s soccer team no longer want to play in protest of their coach. They have told the Spanish federation that being on the team has “significantly” affected their “emotional state” and health. The federation interpreted the move as the players’ attempt to “pressure” its leadership into firing coach Jorge Vilda, whom the players have publicly questioned in recent weeks. In a statement issued late Thursday, the federation said it “won’t permit its players to question the continuance of the national team coach” and that it wouldn’t “tolerate any type of pressure by any player.” The players, however, insisted in their own public statement Friday that they have not asked for Vilda to be removed, but instead want “a clear commitment to a professional project with attention paid to all the aspects needed to get the best performance of this group of players . . . We understand that it is not our job in any case to choose a coach, but it is our job to express in a constructive and honest way what we consider can improve the performance of the group,” the players said in a statement on their social media accounts. The rift between players and federation exploded Thursday when 15 players sent identical e-mails to the federation asking not to be called up again because of the emotional pain it meant to play for the team. The e-mail sent by the players was published by local media Friday. The players who sent e-mails included the team’s third captain, Patri Guijarro, goalkeeper Sandra Paños. and attacking midfielder Aitana Bonmatí. Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas did not send an e-mail, but she did join the players in revolt in posting the public statement that reiterated their position Friday. The e-mail said “the general situation on the Spanish national team generated by recent events, events which [the federation] is aware of, is greatly affecting my emotional state and therefore my health.” Spain is scheduled to host friendlies against Sweden on Oct. 7 and the United States on Oct. 11 . . . The Zambian soccer federation opened an investigation into claims of sexual abuse in the women’s game and said it was taking accusations made on social media serious enough to ask police for help with the inquiry. The Football Association of Zambia said there was no record of an official complaint being made, but there have been accusations that players on the women’s national team — which will play at next year’s World Cup — had been victims of abuse at the hands of coaching staff. No one has been identified in the case . . . Juventus reported a record loss of $246 million for the 2021-22 financial year at a board of directors meeting — adding to its recent struggles on the field. It’s the fifth consecutive year Juventus has reported a loss, and it’s $43 million more than in 2020-21. Juventus said the increase in losses was mainly due to decreased income from TV rights and media revenues due to fewer Champions League matches. Juventus was eliminated by Villarreal in the first knockout round of last season’s Champions League. Last weekend, Juventus lost at promoted Monza — raising questions about the status of coach Massimiliano Allegri.

TENNIS

Protester disrupts Laver Cup

A man wearing a T-shirt with a slogan protesting the use of private jets in the United Kingdom interrupted a match at the Laver Cup tennis exhibition at the O2 Arena in London by lighting his right arm on fire while sitting on the court. The incident occurred during a break in a match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman, hours before Roger Federer was scheduled to play for the final time before retiring. The man, whose shirt read “End UK private jets,” doused the flames on his arm himself and was quickly removed by security, who also put out the small fire the protester set on the court using some sort of flammable liquid. Tsitsipas spoke to the chair umpire to make sure it would be safe to continue to play and asked that a mark left on the court be cleaned up.

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MISCELLANY

WADA keeps marijuana on banned list

Marijuana use will remain banned at sports events after the World Anti-Doping Agency resisted calls to change its status on the list of prohibited substances. The agency was asked to review the status of THC — the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis — after the case of United States sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who did not go to the Tokyo Olympics last year. She served a one-month ban after testing positive at the national trials meet where she won the 100 meters. The sprinter said she had smoked marijuana as a way of coping with her mother’s death. Athletes who use cannabis were consulted by WADA-appointed experts whose conclusions included that it was “against the spirit of sport,” the agency said. Positive tests for THC at races and events, though not in training, can therefore continue to trigger bans as short as one month . . . Greg Lee, who helped UCLA to consecutive national championships in 1972 and ‘73 as a starting guard under coach John Wooden, has died. He was 70. Lee died at a San Diego hospital on Wednesday from an infection related to an immune disorder, the university said Thursday after being informed by his wife, Lisa. Lee became a starting guard on the varsity team as a sophomore in 1971-72, alongside Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes. The Bruins had a 30-0 record while winning games by an average margin of over 30 points. They beat Florida State 81-76 in the national title game. The following season, the Bruins again went 30-0 and won the national championship, 87-66 over Memphis State. After leaving UCLA, Lee played professionally in the ABA and NBA. He briefly played for the Portland Trail Blazers in 1975-76, reuniting with Walton, before playing in Germany for several seasons.

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