The 15 members of Venezuela's national soccer team said Monday that they would not continue representing their country in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers unless the coaching staff and directors of the Venezuelan Football Federation were replaced.
In a statement released on social media, the players reacted angrily to comments made last week by the head of the federation, Laureano Gonzalez, who accused the squad of conspiring to get coach Noel Sanvicente fired.
"A movement came together there (inside the team) to throw out the coach, who is our winningest national coach," Gonzalez said.
Those "declarations are totally false and defamatory of our honor and reputation," players Tomas Rincon, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Salomon Rondon, Roberto Rosales, Cesar Gonzalez, Luis Manuel Seijas, Franklin Lucena, Grenddy Perozo, Josef Martinez, Juan Falcon, Nicolas Fedor, Gabriel Cichero, Ronald Vargas, Alejandro Guerra and Christian Santos said.
Their ultimatum comes less than a week after defender Fernando Amorebieta announced his retirement from the national team in an open letter that likewise denounced the coaches and the federation bosses.
The players said they were unwilling to continue in an "environment already damaged by our directors."
"As long as the Venezuelan Football Federation is commanded by the current directors ... (the) dream of going to a soccer World Cup is threatened," the players wrote.
Venezuela sits in last place in the South American qualifiers, with zero points from four matches.