Spain women celebrate another soccer title. This time without the distractions

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MADRID (AP) — Spain’s women’s soccer team is finally getting attention for its play on the field, rather than the behavior of its officials.

Spain followed up its Women’s World Cup title in August with victory in the inaugural Women’s Nations League on Wednesday, and this time the talk in Spain is about the great performances of the team and not about an unwanted kiss that ruined the team’s World Cup celebrations.

The kiss by former soccer federation president Luis Rubiales on the lips of player Jenni Hermoso during the World Cup awards ceremony sparked widespread outrage in Spain and ignited one of the sport’s worst crises. Rubiales eventually resigned, and prosecutors later accused him of sexual assault.

The scandal overshadowed the team’s performances and its historic achievement in what was only its third World Cup appearance.

There was no controversy this time after another big victory, only praise for the women who triumphed again and were finally being recognized for their talent, not their fight against sexism or lack of equality.

“Invincible,” said the sports daily Marca in one of the many front-page headlines featuring the women’s national team on Thursday, both on the sports and general news dailies.

The team was officially welcomed by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in Madrid, where captain Irene Paredes reiterated calls for more support for women’s sports.

“I take this opportunity to talk about the need to support women’s sports with more than just words,” she said. “We need laws that protect us and help us.”

On the field, Paredes and her teammates were drawing comparisons to some of the great players who helped Spain thrive in men’s soccer for many years, including some of those who led “La Roja” to consecutive titles in the 2008 European Championship, the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euro.

Many local sports pundits were quick to make the link between the women’s team’s success to those achieved by Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.

France coach Hervé Renard made the same connection after his squad was overwhelmed by the Spaniards on Wednesday.

“I played against Spain while coaching Morocco in 2018, against a midfield with Iniesta and Busquets, and it was the same feeling,” he said.

The 2-0 win over France came in front of a record crowd of 32,657 at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville, the largest ever to watch Spain’s women’s national team in the country.

“For us it’s a pleasure to be able to win trophies here in front of our fans, to feel their support and I think it goes further than that — this is proving that women’s football is the future,” Hermoso said.

By reaching the Nations League final, the Spanish women also secured their sport at the Paris Games for what will be its first-ever participation in the Olympics, when it will try to build on its momentum.

“It will be an honor to welcome you here again with a medal after the Games,” Sánchez said.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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