Spain’s soccer federation will convene an urgent meeting to address the controversy surrounding its president, Luis Rubiales. Rubiales is facing a FIFA suspension and widespread criticism after allegations that he kissed player Jenni Hermoso without her consent following Spain’s victory in the Women’s World Cup. Despite calls for his resignation from players, coaches, and the government, Rubiales has refused to step down, maintaining that the kiss was consensual. The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has called for an extraordinary meeting to assess the situation following Rubiales’ suspension by FIFA. The governing body has initiated disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales and suspended him from all national and international soccer activities for three months pending an investigation. Rubiales has stated that he will use the FIFA probe to prove his innocence.
Rubiales, who played primarily in Spain’s second division during his 12-year career, was elected to lead the RFEF in 2018 with a promise to modernize the organization, increase transparency, and boost turnover. While the Spanish government does not have the power to dismiss Rubiales, it has strongly condemned his actions and is seeking to have him suspended through a legal procedure before a sports tribunal. The controversy surrounding Rubiales comes at a time when gender issues have become a prominent topic in Spain, with numerous protests against sexual abuse and violence taking place in recent years.
In support of Jenni Hermoso, who has stated that she did not consent to the kiss and felt victimized, fellow players and members of society have shown their solidarity. Hermoso received applause from the crowd during the Women’s Cup final between Atletico Madrid and Milan, and players at the match displayed a banner expressing their support. Players from Orlando Pride and San Diego Wave wore wristbands in solidarity with Hermoso during their National Women’s Soccer League match, and players in Sweden displayed supportive messages on wrist tape. The entire Spanish cup-winning squad, including Hermoso, along with numerous other squad members, have declared that they will not participate in international matches as long as Rubiales remains in charge. The coaching staff of the women’s team has also offered their resignations in support of Hermoso and condemnation of Rubiales. Feminist groups have organized demonstrations in Madrid and Salamanca, and UN Women Spain has gathered 50 signatories, including politicians, actors, business people, and journalists, in a statement calling for zero tolerance of abuse or bullying in women’s sport.
While the incident has been described as a MeToo moment for Spain by Victor Francos, head of the state-run National Sports Council, he believes it will not harm Spain’s bid to host the 2030 World Cup. Andres Iniesta, a former member of Spain’s men’s team, has also criticized Rubiales’ behavior, stating that it damages the image of the country and its football globally. Lise Klaveness, the chief of Norway’s football federation, has emphasized that football’s journey towards inclusion, diversity, and gender equity is far from over, expressing disappointment that the focus has shifted from celebrating the Spanish team’s achievements to addressing issues of misogyny.
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