The president of the Spanish football federation, Luis Rubiales, has sparked a public outcry after he kissed the forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the post-match ceremony of the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney on Sunday.
Spain defeated England 1-0 to claim their first-ever World Cup title, thanks to a goal by Hermoso in the 76th minute. However, the historic moment was overshadowed by Rubiales’ gesture, which was caught on camera and widely shared on social media.
Many viewers and commentators criticized Rubiales for his inappropriate and disrespectful behavior, accusing him of sexual harassment and abuse. Hermoso herself said on a live stream afterward that she “didn’t like it” and “didn’t expect it”.
The union representing Spain’s women’s soccer players, FUTPRO, issued a statement on Wednesday, calling for Rubiales to be punished and demanding measures to protect the players from “machismo and sexism”. The union also said it was working with Hermoso’s agency to defend her interests and act as spokesperson on this matter.
FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, opened a disciplinary case against Rubiales on Thursday, saying it was “aware of the incident” and “will not tolerate any form of discrimination or violence in football”.
Rubiales initially defended his action as a “natural gesture of affection and gratitude” between two friends, and dismissed those who saw it differently as “idiots and stupid people”. He later apologized in a video statement, admitting he had “made a mistake” and saying he was sorry if anyone felt offended.
However, his apology was not enough for many politicians and journalists, who called for his resignation or removal. The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said Rubiales’ apology was “not enough” and urged him to “reflect on his attitude”. The president of the Spanish government’s High Council of Sport, Victor Francos, said he would take action against Rubiales if the federation failed to do so.
The football federation is expected to address the incident during an extraordinary general assembly on Friday, though it does not appear on the agenda for the meeting. The federation has not issued any official statement or sanction on Rubiales so far.
The kiss controversy has overshadowed Spain’s historic achievement in the World Cup, which was celebrated by thousands of fans in Madrid and other cities. The players have expressed their pride and joy for winning the trophy, but also their disappointment and anger for Rubiales’ behavior.
Hermoso, who scored six goals in the tournament and won the Golden Boot award as the top scorer, said she wanted to focus on the positive aspects of the World Cup and not let the incident ruin her happiness.
“I’m very proud of this team and this country. We have made history and we have shown that we are a great team. We have to enjoy this moment and not let anything spoil it,” she said.