Spanish soccer chief Luis Rubiales has refused to resign from his position as Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president following a week of fierce criticism after video showed him placing an unwanted kiss on a star player of Spain’s winning Women’s World Cup team.
Rubiales spoke at an RFEF Extraordinary General Assembly on Friday and said he will “fight to the end.” In a defiant speech, he described the kiss as “mutual” and spoke of “unjust” campaigns and “fake feminism.”
Rubiales was filmed forcibly kissing Spain star Jennifer Hermoso – who helped La Roja win its first Women’s World Cup title on Sunday in Sydney – on the lips after she collected her winners’ medal, an act which the 33-year-old World Cup winner later said she “didn’t like” and “didn’t expect.”
On Monday, Rubiales admitted he had “made a mistake,” but criticism continued to pour in throughout the week from the soccer world and Spanish politicians, including Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, who said the apology for what he called an “unacceptable gesture” was “not enough.”
On Friday the embattled president issued a staunch defense of his actions at the final, saying: “Everyone there – even some of them my family, my daughters – the desire that could have been there in that kiss is exactly the same that could have been as giving a kiss to one of my daughters. No more, no less.
“It was a spontaneous kiss … It was spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and with consent, which is the key. This is the key to all of the criticism, of all of the campaign which has been mounted in this country: that it was without consent. No. It was with consent.”
On Wednesday, following strong criticism of Rubiales’ kiss from journalists, politicians, and campaign groups, Hermoso said that Spain’s Association of Professional Soccer Players (FUTPRO) and her agency TMJ would be “defending my interests and acting as spokespersons on this matter.”
Then on Thursday, global governing body FIFA said that it had opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales as he may have violated the game’s “basic rules of decent conduct.”
Rubiales also said that he was in “no position of dominance” during the kiss and that he had wanted to console Hermoso, who had missed a penalty to put Spain 2-0 ahead during the final.
“When Jenni first showed up, she lifted me up from the ground. She grabbed me by the hips, by the legs, I don’t remember well,” he said. “She lifted me up from the ground – and we almost fell down.
“And when she put me down on the ground, we hugged each other. She’s the one who picked me up in her arms and she pulled me into her body. We hugged and I told her, ‘Forget about the penalty. You were fantastic, we wouldn’t have won this World Cup without you.’ She replied to me, ‘You are awesome.’ And I said, ‘A small peck?’ And she said, ‘OK.’
“Then the peck happened during all of this celebration with her patting me on the side a few times and then excusing herself with one more hand on the side and going off laughing. That’s the whole sequence. That the whole world understood, that the whole world thought was an anecdote, and above all, she said was an anecdote and nothing more.”
While acknowledging he needed to apologize for his actions, Rubiales described calls for his resignation as a “witch hunt.”
More to follow.