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Controversy Erupts in Spain’s Soccer Federation: Players Demand Resignation Amid Kissing Scandal

Controversy Erupts in Spain’s Soccer Federation: Players Demand Resignation Amid Kissing Scandal

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Just days after their triumph in the Women’s World Cup, the Spanish national women’s soccer team players declared their refusal to participate in further matches. Their demand? The resignation of the president of the country’s soccer federation, who is under fire for a controversial kiss he planted on player Jenni Hermoso’s lips in the aftermath of their victory.

Luis Rubiales also criticized for an inappropriate gesture involving his crotch after Spain’s 1-0 win over England on Sunday, has shown defiance against mounting pressure to step down. The kiss marred the joyous title celebrations in Sydney, Australia, and has generated widespread criticism.

In response to Rubiales’ portrayal of the kiss as consensual, Hermoso released a statement vehemently rejecting his version on Friday. Meanwhile, the 46-year-old federation president depicted himself as the aggrieved party during an emergency general assembly of the federation in Madrid.

Contrary to reports suggesting Rubiales’ resignation on Thursday, he declared on Friday that he was facing a campaign against him by what he referred to as “false feminists.” Despite his unyielding stance, federation vice president Rafael del Amo, who oversaw women’s soccer, announced his resignation, followed by at least two other federation members, all of whom had urged Rubiales to step down.

While some figures within Spanish soccer, including women’s national team coach Jorge Vilda and men’s national team coach Luis de la Fuente, supported Rubiales, he had been bereft of public backing in Spain until the assembly. Political factions from across the spectrum had criticized his actions.

In his address to the assembly, Rubiales asserted that Hermoso “lifted me up” in a celebratory gesture, which prompted him to ask for “a little kiss?” to which she purportedly replied, “Yes.” He framed the kiss as innocent, akin to something he would do for his daughters.

However, Hermoso contradicted Rubiales’ account in two statements. The first, issued through her FUTRPO players union, and the second, published on social media, emphasized that she did not consent to the kiss or attempt to lift the president. She refuted the existence of the conversation described by Rubiales.

Jenni Hermoso Firmly Asserts Nonconsent 

“I will not stand for anyone questioning my integrity, and certainly not someone distorting my words,” Hermoso firmly declared.

In a subsequent statement, Hermoso revealed the emotional toll of the kiss, confessing that it had left her in a state of profound shock. She underlined her belief that any form of nonconsensual behavior should find no place in any professional setting.

Furthermore, Hermoso alleged that the soccer federation exerted pressure on both her and her family to support Rubiales publicly. This claim was in response to the federation’s denial of reports suggesting her initial statement minimizing the incident was coerced.

Following a day filled with a flurry of allegations and counter-accusations between Hermoso and Rubiales, the federation issued an early Saturday statement. It asserted that Rubiales had not been untruthful and emphasized that he and the organization were initiating legal actions against Hermoso and her union. The statement included photographic evidence purporting to show Hermoso lifting Rubiales during the medal ceremony.

The joint FUTPRO statement, endorsed by Hermoso, her 22 teammates, and over 50 other Spanish players, unequivocally declared that they would not continue representing Spain as long as the present leadership persisted.

As Rubiales vowed to defend his reputation in court, political figures, including two ministers, condemned the kiss as sexual violence. Acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz stressed the end of impunity for such actions, urging urgent action against Rubiales and stating, “Rubiales cannot continue in office.”

Teammates Rally Behind Hermoso, Expressing Sympathy

Alexia Putellas, a fellow teammate and a two-time Ballon d’Or recipient for her title as the world’s best player, utilized X, formerly known as Twitter, to convey her unwavering support for Hermoso. The Barcelona player asserted, “This is completely unacceptable. I stand by you, my teammate, Jenni Hermoso.”

Swiftly, other teammates joined in this solidarity, as did players from international teams.

Expressing her dismay, U.S. soccer sensation Alex Morgan stated on X, “I am appalled by Luis Rubiales’ public actions.” She went on to express that a World Cup victory should be a pinnacle moment in players’ lives, but in this case, it has been eclipsed by incidents of assault, misogyny, and failures within the Spanish federation.

Spain’s women’s league president, Beatriz Álvarez, shared her perspective with the Spanish state broadcaster RTVE. She noted that Rubiales’ actions did not surprise her, as his ego appeared to take precedence over his dignity. His words shocked and disheartened her, which, according to her, continued to reveal his true character every time he spoke.

As Spain’s government initiated plans to file a lawsuit, alleging that Rubiales violated the nation’s sports laws, Víctor Francos, the secretary of state for sports and head of Spain’s Higher Council for Sports, conveyed that if the Administrative Court for Sports agreed to take up the case, the council would suspend Rubiales pending the court’s verdict.

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