Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF), has stirred a furore by kissing midfielder Jenni Hermoso during the Women’s World Cup trophy presentation.
Here are main points of the case:
WHO IS HE?
Rubiales, 46, was a defender with several lower league clubs in Spain and Hamilton Academical in Scotland until 2009. He became president of the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) a year later before being elected to lead the RFEF in 2018. He vowed to modernise its structure, increase turnover and improve transparency after a corruption scandal.
Rubiales sacked Spain manager Julen Lopetegui two days before their 2018 World Cup campaign in Russia because the coach had a pre-agreement to join Real Madrid after the tournament.
There was further controversy last year when members of the Spanish women’s team mutinied against their coach Jorge Vilda. The RFEF backed Vilda who then cut 12 of the 15 players involved from the squad that went on to win the World Cup.
WHAT DID RUBIALES DO?
When the final whistle blew in Australia on Aug. 20 and Spain had beaten England 1-0, Rubiales grabbed his crotch in celebration while close to Spain’s Queen Letizia and 16-year-old Princess Sofia. When presenting Hermoso with her medal, he held the player on the head and kissed her lips.
Hermoso’s first reaction was to tell team mates “Hey, I didn’t like it”, according to locker room footage. The federation cited her the next day as downplaying the incident, but she denied involvement in that statement and went on to say she did not agree to the kiss and was a victim of sexism.
Rubiales first called critics “idiots” then apologised. “Surely I was wrong, I have to admit,” he said in a video. “It was without bad faith at a time of maximum effusiveness.”
WHAT HAVE AUTHORITIES DONE?
World governing body FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales and on Aug. 26 provisionally suspended him from all football-related activities for 90 days.
He refused to resign. “A consensual peck is enough to get me out of here? I will fight until the end,” Rubiales told the federation, to the applause of many, including Vilda.
Since that meeting, the RFEF’s regional representatives have urged his resignation.
WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN?
Rubiales’ actions on World Cup final day, and later defiance, have brought a torrent of public criticism in Spain and elsewhere, but also a backlash in some circles against feminism.
Spain’s socialist government has taken a tough line: Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz termed the kiss an “attack” while acting Equality Minister Irene Montero told Reuters: “We are sending the correct message to the world, that sexism is over.”
Within the game, numerous figures condemned Rubiales, including high-profile male personalities such as Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez. A group of 81 professionals, including the entire World Cup-winning squad, said they would no longer play for the national side under the current leadership.
In support of Rubiales, his mother Angeles Bejar began a hunger strike in a church in their hometown of Motril on Aug. 28 to denounce “the inhumane and bloody hunt” against her son.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Rubiales faces at least three legal and administrative challenges, which carry potential sanctions ranging from sacking and disqualification to prison time.
As well as FIFA’s disciplinary committee hearings, the Spanish High Court’s prosecutor plans to contact Hermoso about a possible criminal complaint for sexual aggression, and the state-run National Sports Council (CSD) has asked its Sport Administrative Court (TAD) to look into complaints.
Rubiales, who says he is the victim of a campaign by “false feminists”, and the RFEF, have said they will take their own legal action to prove his innocence. REUTERS