Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales apologises for kissing Women’s World Cup Winner
MADRID – A day after drawing outrage by grabbing and forcefully kissing Spanish forward Jennifer Hermoso on the lips during the Women’s World Cup medal ceremony, Spain’s football federation chief Luis Rubiales issued an apology.
“I have to apologise,” he said in a video broadcast by the federation on Monday afternoon. “Probably I made a mistake.”
But he stressed that he had a “magnificent relationship” with Hermoso.
The kiss was delivered in Sydney, only a few feet from where Spanish Queen Letizia was standing onstage as she congratulated the women’s team for beating England 1-0 to capture their first World Cup trophy on Sunday.
Video footage shows Rubiales enveloping Hermoso in his arms, grabbing her face between his hands and planting a kiss full on her mouth.
Spaniards reacted with confusion and disgust on social media. Many saw it as evidence of a callous disregard for Hermoso and lingering sexism in football.
The episode is the latest in a string of incidents that have plagued the women’s national team in recent months. Last year, 15 players walked out in protest, accusing the coach, Jorge Vilda, of outdated training methods and controlling behaviour.
But the federation backed Vilda, and only three of the rebel players were readmitted to the team.
At first, Rubiales responded to the latest controversy with flippancy, brushing off his critics as “losers” in a late-night interview with the Cadena Cope radio station before boarding a flight back to Spain from Australia.
“We shouldn’t pay attention to idiots and stupid people,” he said then, claiming that the kiss had been just a “peck between two friends celebrating something”.
But by the time his long-haul flight landed in Spain on Monday morning, condemnation of his behaviour was widespread in Spain.
Adding his voice to the chorus of complaints, the Minister of Culture and Sport, Miquel Iceta, called for an explanation from the football chief, pointing out that it was unacceptable to congratulate football players by kissing them on the lips.
“I think it is unacceptable to kiss a player on the lips to congratulate her,” he told Spanish public radio.
Other prominent politicians demanded Rubiales’ resignation. The Equality Minister, Irene Montero, accused Rubiales on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, of sexual violence.
A non-consensual kiss is “a kind of sex violence all women suffer daily, which was until now invisible and which we cannot normalise”, she said.
Acting Second Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz called for Rubiales’ resignation because “without any doubt (he) attacked a woman”, arguing that “his excuses do not work at all”.
Rubiales then changed his tune. “There was no bad intention by either party,” he said on Monday. “We saw it as natural,” he added, apparently referring to Hermoso. “But it has caused a commotion and people are offended, so I must apologise.”
As for Hermoso, she seemed to have been taken by surprise by the kiss on Sunday, and expressed her distaste in a post-match video, saying, “Hey, but I didn’t like that!”
Later, she appeared to downplay the episode. “It was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture,” she said, “because of the huge joy of winning a World Cup.”
- NYTIMES, REUTERS, AFP