Jenni Hermoso Credit: Today

Post-game celebrations are usually less notable than the event itself, but Spain’s 1-0 victory over England in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final Sunday has drawn more attention for what happened afterwards. There, Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), did several questionable things, including grabbing his crotch near players and kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips.

That latter move from Rubiales has drawn particular national and international condemnation. That’s included all 23 players on the women’s team at this World Cup, as well as 56 other women’s players and many players on the men’s team, saying they won’t represent their country while Rubiales retains that job. That’s also seen the resignation of the women’s team’s coaching staff, apart from head coach Jorge Vilda, who’s facing his own pushback (15 players refused to play for him ahead of this World Cup, citing mismanagement of injuries, training sessions, tactics and more).

On Saturday, this situation saw worldwide soccer governing body FIFA issue a 90-day suspension for Vilda. But, before that suspension was handed down, the Spanish federation threatened to sue Hermoso (and the 79 players threatening a boycott) over “lies” about the kiss, and put out a statement with comments Hermoso denied she made. Here’s more on that from Stephen Burgen of The Guardian:

In a statement, the federation said it would take the “necessary legal action” and told the players that “playing for the national team is an obligation on any member of the federation called upon to do so”.

…“At no time did I consent to the kiss,” Hermoso said in a statement. “I won’t tolerate having my word doubted, much less have people inventing things that I didn’t say.”

Shortly after the incident, the federation issued a statement in which Hermoso purportedly said the kiss was consensual and that she and Rubiales enjoyed a close relationship.

A report by the Madrid-based sports website Relevo said the federation had coerced her into making the statement. The federation denied this to the Associated Press.

In a written statement, Hermoso said: “I don’t want to interfere in the legal process but I feel obliged to report that the words used by Sr Luis Rubiales to explain what happened are categorically untrue and are part of the manipulative culture that he himself has created. I have not been respected.”

And here’s some of their comments on Hermoso’s “lies” and the “consensual” kiss and “those people falsifying reality”:

It’s bizarre to see RFEF going to these lengths to try and defend Rubiales while he’s under so much national (including criticism from many prominent Spanish politicians) and international fire. And it’s particularly odd and problematic to see them come out with a statement with words from Hermoso she claims she didn’t say.

Of course, this isn’t the only controversy around women’s soccer at the moment. Many of the teams at this Women’s World Cup have been battling the treatment they’ve received from their national federations, which NBC’s Rebecca Lowe called “an absolute disgrace” earlier this month. And some of that has also involved physical allegations, as with Zambia, and some of it has involved allegations of overdue compensation, as with Nigeria. Steph Yang of The Athletic noted those situations Friday:

Reckonings over incredible mistreatment of women’s soccer players have happened in North America in recent years as well, including in the NWSL and in the Canadian national program. But the ongoing one in Spain is notable for it happening right around a World Cup celebration, and for the remarkable media dimensions, from allegations of false statements to threatened lawsuits. We’ll see how this winds up.

[The Guardian]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.