The controversy surrounding Spanish football and the fallout from the “kissing” incident at the women’s World Cup Final, took yet another twist at the weekend. Luis Rubiales who had been the focus of immense criticism, finally succumbed to the relentless pressure put upon him, and handed in his resignation.
The president of the Spanish Football Federation had consistently ignored calls for him to quit after he was seen to kiss forward Jenni Hermoso full on the lips at the presentation ceremony, following Spain’s victory over England in Australia.
Hermoso, although seemingly not greatly concerned at the time, later said the kiss was not consensual and she has since filed an official complaint for sexual assault and coercion, presumably after receiving legal advice.
Rubiales had been provisionally suspended by football’s world governing body Fifa, pending an investigation.
Only one way it was going to end
The winning of the World Cup has had to take a back seat in favour of the fallout from this extraordinary incident. There is no doubt that Rubiales should have known better, with a global television audience watching, and unfortunately for him, there was only going to be one outcome, once the player had reacted the way she did at the press conference, when reporters skilfully manoeuvred their questions on the subject.
World Cup win overshadowed
Influential politicians, celebrities, fellow footballers and campaigners were quick to offer their powerful voices in speaking out against Rubiales, demanding his resignation. At what should have been a time of great celebration had been completely overshadowed by what had turned into a sexism scandal, to such an extent that many had actually forgotten that the Spanish actually won the tournament.
When Hermoso eventually made the complaint official to the high court it was not only for sexual assault, but also for an alleged coercion charge, after she told the prosecutor her relatives had been pressured by Rubiales and his “professional entourage” to say she “justified and approved what happened”.
All 23 members of the World Cup winning squad quickly backed their teammate and insisted that they would not play for the national team again while Rubiales remained in his position.
World Cup-winning manager Jorge Vilda, who was considered a close ally of Rubiales, was sacked last week, which seemed incredibly harsh given that he too had condemned the actions of his boss. Nevertheless, his previous friendship would it appears to have cost him his job. Incredible really, considering he masterminded the historic victory.
Left with no choice
In her most recent match, Hermoso received a warm welcome from supporters and teammates of her domestic club, Pachuca, and as support for her gathered pace, it seems it finally was enough to convince Rubiales that he had no real choice but to stand aside.
He released a statement to the Federation he had proudly presided over, which read: “Insisting on waiting and holding on is not going to contribute to anything positive, neither to the federation nor to Spanish football. I cannot continue my work, it is evident that I will not be able to return to my position.”
Rubiales added that he hoped his departure would boost Spain’s joint bid with Morocco and Portugal to host the 2030 World Cup, before continuing his stance that the “kiss” was indeed consensual. “I have faith in the truth and I will do everything in my power to prevail.”
He pointed out that his daughters, his family and the people who love him, have all suffered the “effects of excessive persecution, as well as many falsehoods,” but he said, it was also true that on the street, more and more every day, “the truth is prevailing.”
He explained that his father had told him to focus on his dignity and to continue his life because if he didn’t he was going to damage not only the people he loves, but also the sport. He said it made him realise that attitudes towards him were also affecting third parties who are hugely important to him.
Judge to make decision
It is now up to a high court judge to assess the complaint and decide whether to accept or archive the request. If accepted, a magistrate will be assigned to lead an investigation, which will conclude either with a recommendation for the case to go to trial, or be dismissed.
The charge of sexual assault under Spanish law can carry a punishment ranging from a fine to four years in prison.