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Spain: Coaches for women’s football team resign amid Rubiales scandal

Spain: Coaches for women's football team resign amid Rubiales scandal

Six coaches for the Spanish women’s football team announced on Saturday that they had tendered their resignations after Spanish FA President Luis Rubiales forcibly kissed player Jenni Hermoso, leaving coach Jorge Vilda without any assistants.

In a statement posted on social networks, the signatories, including Vilda’s assistant Montse Tomé, said they had «taken the decision to tender their resignation» to the RFEF and expressed their «firm and categorical condemnation of Luis Rubiales’ behaviour towards Jennifer Hermoso».

FIFA suspends Rubiales

On Saturday, FIFA suspended Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, as protests mount over his forced kissing of a player at the Women’s World Cup final.

«We have today decided to provisionally suspend Mr Luis Rubiales from all football-related activities at national and international level,» the world football governing body said in a statement, adding that the suspension would last for at least 90 days pending the progress of the proceedings against the Spaniard.

The 23 members of Spain’s national women’s football team, crowned world champions in Australia on Sunday, say they won’t play for the team under Rubiales’s management. 

FIFA has already opened an investigation against him. Its disciplinary committee is tasked with weighing whether Rubiales violated its code relating to “the basic rules of decent conduct” and “behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.”

Rubiales kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during a medals ceremony after the final against England without her consent. He has since refused to resign despite national and international uproar at his actions.

«After everything that happened at the Women’s World Cup medal ceremony, all the players who have signed this text will not honour a future call-up if the current management team is maintained,» the world champions wrote on Friday in a statement issued by the Futpro union, which is defending the interests of Jenni Hermoso, who was forcibly kissed by federation president Luis Rubiales.

Hermoso said in a statement on Friday that «in no moment» did she consent to a kiss on the lips by soccer federation president Luis Rubiales, hours after Rubiales claimed in an emergency meeting of the Spanish soccer federation that the kiss was consensual.

Rubiales has so far refused to step down despite the uproar he caused with the kiss.

“I won’t resign,” Luis Rubiales declared four times in quick succession at the meeting and claimed he was a victim of a witch hunt by “false feminists.”

He was applauded by the overwhelmingly male assembly.

While Rubiales held his ground, federation vice president Rafael del Amo, who had been in charge of women’s soccer, announced that he was resigning, followed by at least two other federation members. Del Amo had urged Rubiales to also resign.

Among those supporting Rubiales were women’s national team coach Jorge Vilda and men’s national team coach Luis de la Fuente. Until Friday’s assembly, he reportedly hadn’t received any public support in Spain, with political parties from both the left and the right speaking out against him.

Uproar in Spain

Rubiales has described the controversial kiss as «spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual,» although he said sorry «for the context in which it took place».

Hermoso had said, “I didn’t like it [the kiss], but what can I do,» in a video streamed on social media last Sunday. 

In his speech to the assembly on Friday, Rubiales said Hermoso “lifted me up” in a celebratory gesture and he asked her for “a little kiss?” and she «said yes.»

“The kiss was the same I could give one of my daughters,” Rubiales said.

The televised broadcast of the medals ceremony didn’t show the first moments when Rubiales congratulated Hermoso. But it does show that his feet were on the ground before he held her face and kissed her.

Spain’s Alexia Putellas, Jennifer Hermoso and Irene Paredes ,from left, celebrate with the trophy at the end of the Women’s World Cup soccer final between Spain and England atAP Photo

Hermoso contradicted Rubiales’ version in a statement issued later through her FUTRPO players’ union. She said, “In no moment did I consent to the kiss that he gave me and in no moment did I try to pick up the president.»

“I won’t tolerate anyone putting in doubt my word, especially someone who invents words that I did not say.”

Rubiales said he would defend his honour in court against politicians, including two ministers, who called his kiss an act of sexual violence. One of them was acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz, who urged the government to take “urgent measures.”

«Impunity for macho actions is over,” Díaz said. “Rubiales cannot continue in office.”

Alexia Putellas, Hermoso’s teammate and a two-time Ballon d’Or winner as the best player in the world, posted a message of support on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“This is unacceptable,» the Barcelona player wrote. «I’m with you, my teammate, Jenni Hermoso.”

Other teammates quickly followed.

Aitana Bonmatí, the Spain midfielder named the best player of the Women’s World Cup, said on X: “There are limits that you cannot cross and we cannot tolerate this. We are with our teammate.” Team captain Ivana Andrés and Olga Carmona, whose goal won the final, also joined in showing their support for Hermoso.

The president of Spain’s women’s league, Beatriz Álvarez, told Spanish state broadcaster RTVE that she was not surprised because Rubiales’ “ego is above his dignity.”

“What surprises and scandalises me are his words,” Álvarez said. “Every time he speaks he shows what kind of person he really is.”

Legal challenge

Spain’s government planned to file a lawsuit Friday alleging that Rubiales violated the country’s sports laws, according to Víctor Francos, secretary of state for sports and head of Spain’s Higher Council for Sports. 

If found guilty by the court for committing sexist acts, Rubiales could be ruled unfit to hold office. Francos said he would ask the court to move its regular Thursday meeting up to Monday.

“The speech by Mr Rubiales before the general assembly of the Spanish soccer federation is absolutely incompatible with representing Spanish sports and with the values of an advanced society like Spain’s,” the Higher Council for Sports said in a written statement.

Spanish soccer club Barcelona, which provided nine players for Spain’s team, said Rubiales’ behaviour “was completely inappropriate.” Sevilla called for his resignation. Espanyol also joined in the criticism.

FIFA’s investigation came after Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said earlier this week that Rubiales’ attempt to apologise — after he first insulted his critics — was unconvincing and that “he must continue taking further steps.”

The Netherlands-based FIFPRO player’s union, which had already demanded action against Rubiales, reiterated its position after his assembly speech.

The only relevant institution to remain silent has been the European soccer body UEFA, for which Rubiales is a vice president. FIFPRO urged UEFA to open its own disciplinary case.

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