How One Man Sullied An Iconic Victory For Spain's Women's Football Team

When Spanish football should have been jubilant, it was imploding.
Rubiales kissed Hermoso during the trophy presentation ceremony on Sunday
Rubiales kissed Hermoso during the trophy presentation ceremony on Sunday

The Spanish football federation president has finally resigned from his role following weeks of backlash over his behaviour at the Women’s World Cup final.

Luis Rubiales was heavily criticised after kissing forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips – a move she described as not consensual – following Spain’s victory against England last month.

However, he refused to go quietly. Here’s a look at what happened, and how one moment shook the whole of Spanish football.

What happened at the Women’s World Cup final?

Rubiales was a UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) vice president and was the European football body’s most senior elected representative at the tournament’s final in Australia on Sunday, August 20.

Rubiales was lining up with other football officials to congratulate the victorious Spanish team after they beat England’s Lionesses, 1-0, when he suddenly kissed Hermoso on the lips – grabbing her head while doing so.

He kissed the other players on the cheek when they were greeting him following the match as well.

He has since faced a backlash for grabbing his crotch at the final whistle, too, while sitting in the VIP area of the stadium and standing near 16-year-old Princess Sofia.

In an Instagram video filmed in the dressing room after the incident, the Spanish team could be seen laughing while re-watching a clip of Rubiales kiss Hermoso.

Hermoso also laughed and shouted: “But I didn’t like it!”

The other players asked her what she was doing and she just shouted, “look at me, look at me,” which has been interpreted as a way of saying she couldn’t do much.

A statement issued shortly afterwards (on her behalf) by the Royal Spanish Football Federation quoted Hermoso as saying: “It was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings.”

Rubiales kissing other players on the cheeks while congratulating them about their win
Rubiales kissing other players on the cheeks while congratulating them about their win

How did Rubiales initially respond?

The day after the match, Rubiales said in a video statement that he was “completely wrong” to kiss Hermoso without her consent.

He said: “It was without bad intention at a time with a lot of excitement. In the moment, we saw it as natural, but outside a commotion has formed.

“I have to apologise, learn from this, and understand that when you are president you have to be more careful.”

How did the incident develop over the following week?

Days after the match, in a joint statement with her union and agency, Hermoso showed she planned to take action.

She said: “My union Futpro, in co-ordination with my agency TMJ, are taking care of defending my interests and being the interlocutors on this matter.”

The Futpro statement said: “We are working to ensure that acts such as those we have seen never go unpunished, that they are sanctioned and that the exemplary measures are adopted to protect women footballers from actions that we believe are unacceptable.”

Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez then waded into the row, saying Rubiales’ actions were an “unacceptable gesture” and his apology was”not enough”.

Spain’s second deputy prime minister Yolanda Diaz called for the football official’s resignation, while Spain’s equalities minister Irene Montero said: “It’s a form of sexual violence women suffer on a daily basis.”

She added: “We should not assume kissing without consent is something ’that happens’.”

Meanwhile, Spain’s top women’s league, Liga F, said he should be disqualified because he “sullied” the World Cup win.

Liga F claimed he had created “unprecedented international embarrassment for Spain, Spanish sport and for women’s football in the world”.

The Fifa disciplinary committee also said that same week said that his actions may have violated its disciplinary code.

Liga F statement also revealed it had lodged a complaint with national Sports Council asking for Rubiales’ disqualification, adding: “One of the biggest achievements in Spanish football history was sullied by the shameful behaviour of the highest representative of Spanish football.

“It’s an incident which has entered the history of world sport and, more seriously still, will forever be linked to our national women’s team.”

And by Thursday, August 24, Spanish media was reported that the football executive was planning on resigning – but he refused.

How has Rubiales reacted to calls for his resignation?

The day after it was reported that he planned to resign, the Spanish football federation called a general assembly on August 25 “as a matter of urgency” – and Rubiales issued a defiant statement.

He then refused to step down, despite reports to the contrary. Instead, he spent his speech criticising the “false feminism” and “social assassination” of his character that he claims has occurred over the last week.

He said: “I will not resign, I will fight this to the end.”

He claimed there was a “social assassination” and that “they are trying to kill me”.

Rubiales also alleged that the moment he grabbed his crotch was “unfortunate” and made in the “euphoria” of the moment, while alleging his kiss with Hermoso was consensual.

He claimed he had asked her if he could give her a little peck – to which she supposedly said yes.

Second deputy PM Diaz wrote on social media that his response was “unacceptable”, adding: “The government must act and take urgent measures. Impunity for machista actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in this position.”

Spain’s public prosecutor and the National Sports Council will now be taking action, according to equality minister Montero, who also wrote online: “Now more than ever, Jenni Hermoso, you are not alone.”

What has changed since?

In the weeks after his statement, Fifa suspended Rubiales, pending an investigation into his behaviour.

That means he was provisionally barred from all football activities for 90 days during the investigation.

Hermoso also submitted a complaint into Spain’s national prosecutor’s office on Wednesday last week – and it has gone to Spain’s high court.

This means he could face criminal charges. A sexual consent law passed in 2022 could mean he receives a fine or gets a prison sentence of one to four years, if found guilty of sexual assault.

Prosecutors have suggested he could be guilty of coercion too, having allegedly encouraged Hermoso to publicly defend him after the incident.

Although he has maintained the kiss was “mutual”, Rubiales revealed in an interview with Piers Morgan that he will be resigning, adding: “Of course, I cannot continue my work.”

He told Morgan that his family – “my father, my daughters” – and his friends urged him to “focus on your dignity”.

“Because if you know probably you are going to damage people you love, and the sport you love…in this situation now, [it is] the thing I have to do,” he said.

Eight days after the incident, Spanish newspapers also suggested Rubiales’ mother went on hunger strike after locking herself in a church over the “inhuman” treatment of her son,

In a recent statement, Rubiales revealed he has submitted his resignation to the Spanish federation’s acting president, following the “suspension by Fifa, plus the rest of the procedures opened against me”.

The Spanish Federation has also distanced itself from his actions, admitting that the damage the incident has had on Spanish football, Spanish sport and Spanish society has been “enormous”.

“Mr Rubiales’ actions do not represent the values defended by the Spanish federation, nor the values of Spanish society as a whole,” it said. “We feel especially sorry and ashamed for the pain and additional distress this has caused.”

The entire Spanish coaching team also resigned on August 26 – aside from the head coach who was sacked on September 5.


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