President of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, has been forced to issue an apology after he drew the ire of the world for planting a widely condemned kiss on the lips of Spain’s all-time leading scorer, Jenni Hermoso, after the European nation’s FIFA Women’s World Cup win on Sunday night.
Hermoso and Rubiales embraced in a tight hug on the dais as the Spain players were coming up to collect their medals after beating England 1-0, but it seemingly went a step too far when the 45-year-old kissed the star player directly on the lips.
Hermoso admitted in a video after the game that she “didn’t like it”.
Speaking in a video broadcast by the Spanish Football Federation, Rubiales issued an apology, admitting fault — but strangely saying that it was “natural” and “normal”.
“There’s an event which I have to regret and it is everything that has happened between a player and I, with a magnificent connection between both people, just as with others,” he said in the video.
“And where I surely made a mistake, I need to recognise it, because in a moment of maximum effusiveness, with no bad intention, with no bad faith, what happened, happened — I think — in a very spontaneous way. I repeat: with no bad faith from either of the two parties.
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Spanish soccer president Luis Rubiales is facing investigation over his World Cup final behaviour. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP
“From that point on, here they didn’t understand it because we saw it as something natural, normal and not at all — and I repeat — with any bad faith.
“But outside it seems as if it has caused a stir. Of course, if there are people who felt hurt by this, I need to apologise — there’s no alternative. And also learn from this and understand that a president of such an important institution as the federation has to — above all in ceremonies and in these types of questions — be more careful.
“Then there are some declarations on my part where, in this context, (I said) that this seems to me something stupid — it’s because of that. Because in here, nobody gave it any importance at all but outside they have. So, I also want to apologise in front of those people because I understand that, if outside they saw it in a different way, they will surely have their reasons.
“And finally I am sorry that, after the biggest success of our history in women’s football and one of the biggest in general — it’s the second World Cup we’ve won — this has tarnished the celebration in a certain way. I think we have to give merit to these women, to the team led by Jorge Vilda and we have to celebrate this in style.”
Spain’s acting Second Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz isn’t buying any of it though, saying: “We continue to request that Rubiales resigns. He has dehumanised and assaulted a woman. His excuses are useless.”
Hermoso later downplayed the incident in a statement sent to Spanish news agency EFE by the federation.
“It was a mutual gesture that was totally spontaneous prompted by the huge joy of winning a World Cup,” the statement said.
“The ‘presi’ and I have a great relationship, his behaviour with all of us has always been 10 (out of 10) and this was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.”
Post-game video footage also depicts Rubiales kissing other players on the cheek and embracing them when handing out the medals.
Acting Culture and Sports Minister Miquel Iceta said on RNE radio the kiss was “unacceptable” and asked Rubiales to provide an explanation and to apologise.
A non-consensual kiss is “a kind of sex violence all women suffer daily, which was until now invisible, and which we cannot normalise”, acting Gender Equality Minister Irene Montero said on as Twitter.
Acting Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra, who belongs to Montero’s party, asked “if they do that with all of Spain watching, what might they do privately?”
An opinion column in Spain’s top-selling El Pais newspaper on Monday morning was titled: “Jenni didn’t like the kiss and we didn’t either” — describing it as “an intrusion, an invasion of privacy, an aggression”.
Rubiales had initially minimised the outrage, calling critics “idiots”.
“The kiss with Jenni? There are idiots everywhere. When two people have a moment of affection that means nothing more, you can’t listen to idiocy. We are the champions, that’s it,” he said, according to Radio Marca.
Socceroos great Craig Foster called for the president to be stood down over his actions.
“Women in sport are daily subject to an extreme power differential, objectification, harassment, sexual abuse and an absence of agency and power,” Foster wrote.
“This is horrific. He should be stood down immediately by FIFA and the Spanish FA.”
Fans agreed with Foster, saying he crossed the line.
“That guy has to go. Inexcusable behaviour,” one fan said on social media.
Another said added that attitudes towards women “still (had) a long way to go”.
“Rubiales needs to step down, and needs to face consequences. We all know he won’t though and that’s the problem,” the fan said.