Spain’s victory in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup last weekend should be a story of celebration. Instead, it’s turning into a disturbing saga about the man atop Spain’s soccer federation and the lengths he has tried to go to evade punishment for his inappropriate actions.
As Spain’s players celebrated their 1-o victory over England in the championship match, Luis Rubiales, president of Spain’s soccer federation, was seen forcefully grabbing Spanish forward Jennifer Hermoso’s head and kissing her on the lips. He was also seen kissing other players on the face during the celebration.
¿Lo de Rubiales? pic.twitter.com/H7ZaAQ0RxU
— Darío (@Youpsico) August 20, 2023
This came after Rubiales was seen grabbing his crotch while celebrating near Princess Infanta Sofía, who is 16.
After the final, during the incredibly
special moment where Spain lifted
their very first WWC Trophy — Luis
Rubiales decided it was apparently
a good idea to grab onto his crotch
while celebrating towards the team.
This is “the face” of RFEF… ??
— Michael (@MichaelEmilio_) August 22, 2023
Rubiales later entered the players’ dressing room and reportedly put his arm around Hermoso and made jokes about marrying her.
After the celebration, Hermoso was seen in an Instagram video telling other players “I didn’t like it,” referring to the kiss, according to The Associated Press.
I’m not Spanish. But this video, as reported by other journalists, shows a conversation where Hermoso is asked by players and staff about the kiss Rubiales gives her on the podium.
She says she didn’t enjoy it and a male staff asks if he used tongue. pic.twitter.com/95XjgcKC3z
— Robin Mumford (@RobinMumford17) August 20, 2023
At first, Rubiales scoffed at critics during an appearance on a radio show, calling them “losers.”
“We shouldn’t pay attention to idiots and stupid people,” he said, saying the kiss was a “peck between two friends celebrating something.”
However, he later filmed an apology video, though it was a classic non-apology apology.
“There’s also an event which I have to regret … What happened happened, I think in a very spontaneous way. I repeat: with no bad faith from either of the two parties,” he said, per The Athletic. “Of course, if there are people who felt hurt by this, I need to apologize — there’s no alternative.”
At this point, things really turned on Rubiales. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that his actions and subsequent apology were not adequate. Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz called for Rubiales’ resignation, as did many other major Spanish officials and organizations.
That’s when Rubiales got desperate. It has since been reported that he and Manager Jorge Vilda “begged” Hermoso to appear with him in an apology video and that team captain Ivana Andrés was also asked to appear in the video. Both refused that request. That’s when Spain’s soccer federation sent a statement to the Spanish press that included a fake quote from Hermoso saying that she had an excellent relationship with Rubiales and the incident was mutual.
“It was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings,” read a fake quote attributed to Hermoso.
At this point, Hermoso put out an actual statement through her union, Futpro, saying that they would “defend my interests” on the issue moving forward. Their statement included a request to “implement the necessary protocols, ensure the rights of our players are upheld, and adopt exemplary measures.”
“We also call on the Higher Sports Council [CSD] so that, within its powers, it actively supports and promotes prevention and intervention in the face of sexual harassment or abuse, machismo, and sexism,” read the statement. “We reject any attitude or conduct that violates the rights of soccer players.”
Former AFE (Spanish players’ association) employee Tamara Ramos on Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales:
“He used to tell me stuff like: ‘come on, you came here to get on your knees’ or ‘what color is your underwear today”
— Leyla Hamed (@leylahamed) August 23, 2023
According to the BBC, the Spanish football federation has called an “extraordinary general assembly” for Friday “as a matter of urgency.”
Rubiales has reportedly said that he has no intention to resign.