By JOSEPH WILSON (Associated Press)
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Less than a week after winning the Women’s World Cup, Spain internationals announced on Friday that they will not play any more games unless the president of the country’s football federation resigns because he said the Player Jenni kissed Hermoso on the lips after her win.
Luis Rubiales, who was also chastised for taking the step after Spain’s 1-0 win over England on Sunday, remained defiant despite the intense pressure to resign. The kiss marred Sunday’s title celebration in Sydney, Australia, and criticism steadily mounted.
Hermoso issued a statement on Friday rebuking Rubiales’ characterization of the kiss as consensual, while the 46-year-old president of the federation presented himself as a victim at an extraordinary general assembly of the federation in Madrid.
“I’m not going to resign,” he declared four times in quick succession, to the applause of the predominantly male audience.
Several Spanish news media reported on Thursday that Rubiales would resign. Instead, he said Friday he was the victim of a witch hunt by “fake feminists.”
While Rubiales held his ground, federation vice-president Rafael del Amo, who had been in charge of women’s football until then, announced his resignation, followed by at least two other federation members. Del Amo had asked Rubiales to resign as well.
Among those who applauded Rubiales were women’s national team coach Jorge Vilda and men’s national team coach Luis de la Fuente. As of Friday’s rally, he had received no public support in Spain as both left and right parties opposed him.
In his speech to the congregation, Rubiales said Hermoso “picked me up” in a solemn gesture and he asked her for “a little kiss.” and she “said yes.”
“The kiss was the same one I could give to one of my daughters,” Rubiales said.
The televised medal ceremony missed the first few moments of Rubiales congratulating Hermoso. But it shows that his feet were on the ground before he held her face and kissed her.
Hermoso contradicted Rubiales’ version in two statements, one from their players’ union FUTRPO and a second released on social media.
She said that she did not consent to either the kiss or the attempt to lift the President and that there was no conversation like the one Rubiales described.
“I will not have anyone question my word, much less if someone puts something in my mouth,” she said.
In a second statement, Hermoso said the kiss “put me in a state of shock.”
“I believe that no one should be a victim of this type of non-consensual behavior in any workplace,” she added.
Hermoso also accused the association of pressuring her and her family to defend Rubiales. The association previously denied a report that shortly after the kiss, she was forced into a statement downplaying the kiss.
After a full day of accusations and counter-accusations between Hermoso and Rubiales, the federation issued a statement early Saturday saying its president had not lied and that he and the organization would take legal action against Hermoso and her union. The statement included photos showing Hermoso lifting Rubiales off the ground during the medal ceremony.
The FUTPRO statement, signed by Hermoso, her 22 team-mates and more than 50 other Spanish players, said they would no longer play for Spain “if the current leadership continues to rule”.
Rubiales said he would defend his honor in court against politicians, including two ministers, who called his kiss an act of sexual violence. One of them was Acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz, who urged the government to take “urgent action”.
“Impunity for macho actions is over,” said Díaz. “Rubiales cannot continue in office.”
Alexia Putellas, Hermoso’s teammate and two-time Ballon d’Or winner for best player in the world, posted a message of support on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“This is unacceptable,” wrote the Barcelona player. “I agree with you my teammate Jenni Hermoso.”
Other teammates and players from abroad quickly followed.
“I’m outraged by Luis Rubiales’ public actions,” US soccer star Alex Morgan said on X. She added that winning a World Cup “should be one of the finest moments in these players’ lives, but instead it’s overshadowed by assault.” .” Misogyny and omissions by the Spanish FA.”
The president of the Spanish Women’s League, Beatriz Álvarez, told Spanish state broadcaster RTVE that she was not surprised because Rubiale’s “ego is above his dignity”.
“What surprises and scandalizes me are his words,” Álvarez said. “Every time he speaks, he shows what kind of person he really is.”
The Spanish government plans to file a lawsuit on Friday accusing Rubiales of violating the country’s sports laws, according to Víctor Francos, Secretary of State for Sport and head of Spain’s Higher Council for Sport. If the Spanish Administrative Court of Sport agrees to hear the lawsuit, the council will suspend Rubiales pending the court’s verdict, Francos said.
Should the court find him guilty of sexist acts, Rubiales could be declared unfit for office. Francos said he will ask the court to move its regular Thursday session to Monday.
Iberia Airlines, a main sponsor of the federation, said it supports the government’s initiative to “protect the rights and dignity of our athletes”.
About 100 people, mostly women, gathered outside the Spanish Football Federation’s headquarters in Madrid on Friday night to call for Rubiales’ resignation. Many waved red cards, which football referees use to exclude players from games.
“What has to happen now is his resignation and the resignation of everyone who applauded him,” said protester Alma Doña, 39. “The association needs to be reformed and women’s football should be given more support.”
Spanish football club Barcelona, who provided nine players for the Spanish team, called Rubiales’ behavior “completely inappropriate”. Real Madrid said they support the government’s decision to suspend Rubiales. Seville demanded his resignation. Athletic Bilbao said they are giving up their seat on the federation’s board and supporting the government’s decisions. Osasuna criticized Rubiales, calling him “rude and sexist”. Espanyol, Valencia and Celta Vigo also spoke out against Rubiales, as did Spanish league president Javier Tebas.
The football governing body FIFA launched disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales on Thursday. Disciplinary judges can impose sanctions on individuals, ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.
Dutch-based players’ union FIFPRO, which had already called for action against Rubiales, reiterated its position after his speech to Parliament.
The only relevant institution that is silent is the European football association UEFA, of which Rubiales is vice-president. FIFPRO asked UEFA to initiate its own disciplinary proceedings.
Rubiales, who led the Spanish players’ union for eight years before taking over as association president in 2018, is currently leading the UEFA-backed bid to host the men’s World Cup in 2030. Spain is bidding alongside neighbors Portugal and Morocco and possibly also with Ukraine.
Rubiales earned €339,000 (US$365,000) after tax in 2021 for presiding over the €382 million (US$412 million) budget federation. The federation operates the Spain men’s and women’s national football teams, as well as its semi-professional and amateur football leagues. It also organizes the referees for La Liga. While the government exercises some oversight over the company, it cannot appoint or remove its executives.
Just before the kiss, Rubiales grabbed his crotch in a victory gesture while Queen Letizia of Spain and 16-year-old Princess Sofía stood nearby.
He apologized for it, saying it was a moment of “euphoria” and aimed at Vilda on the pitch.
The first members of Spain’s men’s football elite gave their views on Rubiales on Thursday when it looked like he might be eliminated. Her reproachful words continued to filter in after Rubiales’ diatribe on Friday.
“What an embarrassment,” ex-Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas said on X. “We should have spent the last five days talking about our players, about the joy they’ve given us all!” About how proud we are that instead they gave us a title that we didn’t have in women’s football…”
Borja Iglesias, Real Betis forward who has occasionally been called up for Spain national team, said he will not play for his country again ‘until things change’.
Associated Press reporter Alicia León from Madrid contributed to this report.
AP coverage of the Women’s World Cup:
https://www.twincities.com/2023/08/25/spain-soccer-head-wont-resign-for-kissing-player-at-world-cup-team-wont-play-until-he-goes/ Spain’s football boss won’t resign for kissing a player at the World Cup. The team won’t play until he leaves – Twin Cities